Somatic symptoms in preadolescents aged 10-12 years with overweight or obesity

Isabel Sanz , Mireia Orgilés , José P. Espada



Introduction. Numerous studies have linked obesity and overweight with physical, psychological and social symptoms, but few of them have examined the presence of somatic symptoms in children or adolescents with obesity or overweight.

Objective. To examine somatic symptoms in preadolescents from 10 to 12 years old depending on their weight category (normal weight and overweight/obesity), as well as other variables related to the disease (times that preadolescents had been sick, had gone to the doctor or had been absent to class for having a disease in the last month, and existence of diseases in the members of their family).

Method. A cross-sectional study was carried out with 668 pre-adolescents; 301 of them showed normal weight and 367 showed overweight or obesity. They completed the Children’s Somatization Inventory that examines gastrointestinal symptoms, pseudoneurological symptoms, and pain. A multivariate analysis of the variance was performed to analyse the data.

Results. No significant differences in gastrointestinal symptoms, pseudoneurological symptoms and pain in function of the weight category were found. Differences were only significant in function of gender, showing girls more gastrointestinal symptoms than boys (F [1,666] = 8.71; p = .003). When examining each somatic symptom, differences were found depending on the weight category, showing participants with overweight or obesity more fatigue (χ2 = 5.35; p < .05), breathing problems (χ2 = 7.51; p < .01), seizures (χ2 = 4.12; p < .05), and poor digestion (χ2 = 4.89; p < .05). The percentage of participants with overweight or obesity who had a sick relative was higher comparing to those with normal weight (χ2 = 2.47; p < .01).

Discussion and conclusion. Overall, the results highlight the importance of examining physical and psychological symptoms in pre-adolescents with overweight or obesity to develop a successful intervention focused not only on the weight reduction but also in the improvement of their quality of life.


Obesity; overweight; somatic symptoms; preadolescents