Pubertal status predicts back pain, overtiredness and dizziness in American and Dutch adolescents
Background. Functional somatic symptoms (FSS), symptoms not explained by conventional medical conditions, are more prevalent in girls than in boys and this difference tends to increase during adolescence. This might be explained, at least in part, by pubertal development. We hypothesized that progressing through puberty is a risk factor for the development of most FSS, and that this is especially true for girls. Method. We used two longitudinal population based studies to examine our hypotheses, the Longitudinal Study of Pain in Adolescents in Seattle (N = 1,996, 49.7% girls) and the Dutch Tracking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey (N = 2,230, 51.0% girls). Two assessment waves of each study were used. American adolescents were younger than Dutch adolescents at the first (11.6 versus 13.6) and second (14.5 versus 16.2) assessment wave, but were in about the same pubertal development stage. FSS were measured by pain questions, the Symptom Check List, and the Youth Self-Report. The Pubertal Development Scale was used to assess pubertal development in both cohorts.
Results. Ordinal logistic regression analyses revealed that American and Dutch adolescents who were at a later pubertal status at baseline were more likely (odds ratios ranging from 1.24 to 1.61) to report back pain, overtiredness, and dizziness, but not stomach pain and headache two to three years later. Although these relations were not equally strong for boys and girls, no significant gender differences were found. Conclusion. Pubertal status predicted the frequency of some, but not all, FSS at follow-up.