Multiple health complaints in preadolescence and hospital contacts during adolescence: a prospective cohort study

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Multiple health complaints (MHC) is increasing among preadolescents in many countries, but their prognostic effect for individual thriving or societal resource use is scarcely studied. This makes interpreting the significance of this increase challenging. We contribute by examining whether MHC in preadolescence predicts hospital contacts in adolescence by doing a nation-wide population-based cohort-study following preadolescents from the Danish National Birth-Cohort from 2010 to 2018. 96,382 children were invited at age 11. Responses to a modified version of the Health Behaviour in School Children Symptom Checklist (headache, dizziness, stomachache, irritability, feeling nervous, difficulty in getting to sleep and feeling low) was dichotomized into MHC (≥ 2 concurrent symptoms, each with a frequency of at least weekly, yes/no). Hospital contacts were derived from Danish registers from the date of answering the questionnaire to December 31st 2018. Negative binomial regression estimated incidence rate ratios (IRRs) comparing children with MHC to children without. Analyses were further broken down by hospital sector (psychiatric/somatic) and contact type (in-patient/out-patient/emergency room). 47,365 (49.1%) responded. Mean age was 11.2 years, 52% girls. 10.3% of responders reported MHC. For hospital contacts, the unadjusted IRR was 1.74 [95% CI 1.65, 1.83]. Results were robust to adjustment for sociodemographic variables and somatic/psychiatric morbidity diagnosed before baseline, IRR 1.62 [95% CI 1.54-1.71]. In conclusion, MHC in preadolescents are prognostic of hospital contacts. This shows that we cannot ignore MHC, and to prevent potentially unhelpful healthcare use, we must act. Future research should focus on the underlying causes of MHC to understand which changes will be most helpful and thus how to act.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7412
JournalScientific Reports
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

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