Open Access Open Badges Research article

Age-specific symptom prevalence in women 35–64 years old: A population-based study

Annika Bardel1*, Mari-Ann Wallander1, Hans Wedel2 and Kurt Svärdsudd1

Author Affiliations

1 Uppsala University, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Family Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology Section, Uppsala, Sweden

2 Nordic School of Public Health, Gothenburg, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:37  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-37

Published: 26 January 2009



Symptom prevalence is generally believed to increase with age. The aim of this study was to evaluate the age specific prevalence of 30 general symptoms among Swedish middle-aged women.


A cross-sectional postal questionnaire study in seven Swedish counties in a random sample of 4,200 women 35–64 years old, with 2,991 responders. Thirty general symptoms included in the Complaint Score subscale of the Gothenburg Quality of Life Instrument were used.


Four groups of age specific prevalence patterns were identified after adjustment for the influence of educational level, perceived health and mood, body mass index, smoking habits, use of hormone replacement therapy, and use of other symptom relieving therapy. Only five symptoms (insomnia, leg pain, joint pain, eye problems and impaired hearing) increased significantly with age. Eleven symptoms (general fatigue, headache, irritability, melancholy, backache, exhaustion, feels cold, cries easily, abdominal pain, dizziness, and nausea) decreased significantly with age. Two symptoms (sweating and impaired concentration) had a biphasic course with a significant increase followed by a significant decrease. The remaining twelve symptoms (difficulty in relaxing, restlessness, overweight, coughing, breathlessness, diarrhoea, chest pain, constipation, nervousness, poor appetite, weight loss, and difficulty in urinating) had stable prevalence with age.


Symptoms did not necessarily increase with age instead symptoms related to stress-tension-depression decreased.