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J Psychosom Res. 2008 Oct;65(4):311-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.05.002. Epub 2008 Aug 28.

Medically unexplained presentations and quality of life: a study of a predominantly South Asian primary care population in England.

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Department of Psychiatry, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Manchester, UK.


Primary care subjects from a predominantly South Asian inner-city setting in Manchester, UK, were studied. We aimed to determine whether medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are associated with worse health-related quality of life than medically explained symptoms (MES), after controlling for differences in sociodemographic variables, number of somatic symptoms, and levels of anxiety and depression. One hundred nineteen subjects attending general practice completed questionnaires to assess somatic symptoms, anxiety, depression, and quality of life. Doctors' records were later studied to ascertain whether the presentation was medically explained. Thirty-nine subjects (33%) had medically unexplained presentations. Compared to patients with MES, those with MUS had significantly more somatic symptoms (6.9 vs. 4.3, P<.001), higher levels of anxiety (Hospital anxiety and depression scale -- anxiety score) (9.8 vs. 6.7, P=.004), depression (Hospital anxiety and depression scale -- depression) (6.8 vs. 4.5, P=.005), and poorer health-related quality of life (EuroQol standardized score 54.6 vs. 73.3, P=.001). On multiple regression analysis, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptom scores independently (P<.01) predicted quality of life, after controlling for demographic factors. Whether the presentation was medically unexplained or not did not contribute to the regression model (P=.85). Our findings suggest that it is the number of somatic symptoms and the associated anxiety/depression that account for greater impairment in people's health-related quality of life, and not whether they have a medical explanation for their symptoms.

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