Are adolescents with high self-esteem protected from psychosomatic symptomatology?Eur J Pediatr. 2016 Jun; 175(6):785-92.EJ
This study investigated the role of self-esteem, social (need to belong, loneliness, competitiveness, and shyness), and health (smoking, drinking) behaviors in Hungarian adolescents' psychosomatic symptoms. Our sample of 490 students (ages 14-19 years) from Debrecen (Hungary) completed the questionnaires. Besides descriptive statistics, correlation and multiple regression analyses were applied to test interrelationships. Frequency analysis revealed that fatigue was the most commonly experienced psychosomatic symptom in this sample, followed by sleeping problems and (lower) back pain. Girls reported experiencing more symptoms. Multiple regression analyses suggested that (1) need to belong, shyness, and competitiveness may serve as social behavioral risk factors for adolescents' psychosomatic symptomatology, whereas (2) self-esteem may play a protective role. The role of social and health behaviors was modified when analyzed by gender: the psychosomatic index score was positively related to smoking and shyness among girls, and need to belong among boys. Self-esteem provided protection for both sexes.
We conclude that problems with social relationships (namely, unmet need to belong, competitiveness, and shyness) may lead to psychosomatic health complaints, whereas self-esteem may serve as a protection. Findings suggest that social skills training and strengthening self-esteem should be an important part of children's health promotion programs in schools to improve their psychosomatic health and well-being.
WHAT IS KNOWN
• Despite being free of serious physical illness, many adolescents often report subjective health complaints, such as psychosomatic symptoms • As children in this life stage develop independence and autonomy, new types of social relationships, and identity, their social needs and skills also change What is new: • Need to belong, shyness, and competitiveness may serve as social behavioral risk factors for adolescents' psychosomatic symptomatology, whereas self-esteem may play a protective role • The role of social and health behaviors may vary by gender.