Adolescent mental health surveys in public health usually have the main focus on self-reported symptoms. The purpose of the study is to analyse the association between psychosomatic problems and impairment with a main focus on if, and how, gender patterns in mental health are affected when also measures of impairment are taken into account. The study is based on questionnaire data collected from 90 255 grade 9 students (~15 years old) in Sweden. Contingency table analysis and binary logistic regression were applied for analysis of the associations between psychosomatic problems and impairment.
When analysing variables on symptoms and impairment independently of each other, the results show similar gender patterns for both variables with respect to prevalence rates. The gender patterns are however strongly affected when impairment is conditioned on degree of psychosomatic symptoms. In the settings of Friendships, Classroom Learning and Leisure Activities, the traditional gender patterns are turned upside down. Except for the Home life setting, boys report negative consequences on everyday life to a higher degree than girls do even after controlling for socio-demographic factors and child-parent relations. While girls are reporting psychosomatic symptoms more frequently than boys, boys seem to suffer from symptoms more than girls in three out of four everyday life settings. Regardless of the causes of this gender paradox, the results confirm the importance of including symptoms as well as indicators of impairment in the measurement of adolescent mental health.
Prof Curt Hagquist is a Life Course Centre Affiliate and a Guest Professor of Public Health at the Department of Education and Special Education, University of Gothenburg. In between 2009 and September 2020, he was the director of the Centre for Research on Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CFBUPH) at Karlstad University. Curt is a trained social worker and gained his PhD 1997 in Social work at the University of Gothenburg with the thesis “The Living Conditions of Young People in Sweden. On the crisis of the 1990s, social conditions and health”. In 1998-1999, he was a Visiting Scholar at Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Perth, Australia. In 2001, he returned to Perth as a Visiting Scholar at Murdoch University and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. In between 2001 and 2004, Curt Hagquist worked as project manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare, Centre for Epidemiology. From 2006 to 2013, he was employed part-time at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, managing a project on child and adolescent mental health.