Background: The association between abuse and somatization has been less systematically investigated than other abuse-related outcomes. Moreover, such studies have given inconsistent results. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the relation between somatization and lifetime exposure to physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.
Methods: A total of 800 women, 400 reporting abuse and 400 reporting no abuse in a previous randomized, population-based study, were sent two questionnaires: SOMAT, a questionnaire on somatization, and the Abuse Inventory (AI). Of 781 eligible women, 547 participated (70% response rate).
Results: Psychological abuse of both limited (6 months–2 years) and prolonged duration (>2 years) was associated with somatization (OR = 2.45, 95% CI 1.37-4.40 and OR = 3.09, 95% CI 1.52-6.30, respectively). Sexual abuse without penetration was associated with somatization (OR = 2.47, 95% CI 1.17-5.20), but sexual abuse with penetration was not. Physical abuse was not associated with somatization when adjustments for other kinds of abuse were made. Being abused in adulthood and in both adulthood and childhood was associated with somatization (OR = 4.20, 95% CI 2.45-7.20 and OR = 2.90, 95% CI 1.69-4.90, respectively), whereas being abused in childhood only was not.
Conclusions: Abuse of women is associated with somatization. Other factors than severity of abuse, such as whether the abused woman herself perceives her experience as abuse, seem to be more decisive for developing somatization in abused women. Abuse should be taken into account when meeting women with somatization symptoms as patients.
2007. Vol. 16, no 6, 909-918 p.