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Common somatic symptoms, causal attributions of somatic symptoms and psychiatric morbidity in a cross-sectional community study in Santiago, Chile

Petros Skapinakis12* and Ricardo Araya2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Ioannina School of Medicine, 451 10 Ioannina, Greece

2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol BS8 2BN, UK

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:155  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-155

Published: 26 May 2011



It has been suggested that individuals from non-western countries tend to deny or mask psychological symptoms of common mental disorders and to present with somatic symptoms. The aim of the present paper was to investigate the association between common mental disorders and somatic symptoms in a representative sample of the general population of Santiago, Chile


This was a cross-sectional study of a stratified random sample of 3807 subjects living in private households in Santiago, Chile. Psychiatric disorders were assessed with the revised Clinical Interview Schedule. We found a strong association between the presence of somatic symptoms and psychiatric disorders (odds ratio 3.20, [95% confidence interval 2.52 - 4.05]). In addition, subjects who attributed their somatic symptoms to psychological or mixed psychological/physical causes were more likely to be cases compared to subjects who made physical attributions only (odds ratios 7.10 [95% CI 4.49-11.25] and 9.27 [6.00-14.34] respectively.


The study confirms previous observations from more selected samples that subjects of Hispanic origin are generally aware of the link between somatic symptoms and psychological ill-health and do not hide or "mask" their psychological symptoms.