Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 41, Issue 11, pp 881–888 | Cite as

How ubiquitous are physical and psychological complaints in young and middle adulthood?

A longitudinal perspective
  • Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross
  • Stephan Horvath
  • Mirjana Canjuga
  • Alex Gamma
  • Jules Angst
  • Wulf Rössler
  • Dominique Eich



To investigate continuity and change of self-reported physical and psychological complaints in young adults over a period of 20 years.

Study design and setting

The Zurich Study – a long-term panel survey in psychiatric epidemiology – is based on a stratified sample of 591 subjects born in 1958 (women) and 1959 (men). The sample strata combine SCL-90-R high-scorers and low-scorers in a 2:1 ratio. Up to now, the Zurich Study has included six interviews between 1979 and 1999, i.e. 20 years of life in young adults. We analysed the longitudinal frequency data of a variety of physical and psychological complaints, as well as information about subjective suffering and use of professional help. The analyses utilised on the McNemar’s test, the Q-test and Markov chain models.


Sleep disorders, depression, menstruation, backache, headache, stomach and bowel complaints yielded cumulative prevalence rates of 80% or higher. Physical and psychological complaints systematically differ with respect to the change patterns between 1979 and 1999. Moreover, strong differences were found in view of subjective suffering and use of professional help.


Even though many self-reported physical and psychological complaints are very common in young adulthood, the underlying dynamics and the implications largely differ. It seems to be crucial whether respondents use somatic glasses or psychological lenses.


self-reported symptoms longitudinal study psychiatric epidemiology Switzerland 



The study was supported by the Swiss National Science foundation (Grant # 32-50881.97).


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross
    • 1
  • Stephan Horvath
    • 1
  • Mirjana Canjuga
    • 1
  • Alex Gamma
    • 1
  • Jules Angst
    • 1
  • Wulf Rössler
    • 1
  • Dominique Eich
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychiatric University HospitalZürichSwitzerland

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