BACKGROUND: Bodily distress syndrome (BDS) is a newly proposed diagnosis of medically unexplained symptoms, which is based on empirical research in primary care.
AIM: To estimate the frequency of BDS in primary care and describe the characteristics of patients with BDS.
DESIGN AND SETTING: A cross-sectional study of primary care patients in urban and rural areas of Central Denmark Region.
METHOD: Data were obtained from GP one-page registration forms, patient questionnaires (including a checklist for BDS), and national registers.
RESULTS: A total of 1356 primary care patients were included, of whom 230 patients (17.0%, 95% confidence intervals [CI] = 15.0 to 19.1) fulfilled the BDS criteria. BDS was more common among primary care patients aged 41-65 years (odds ratio [OR] = 1.9, 95% CI = 1.3 to 3.0) and was equally frequent among males and females (female sex, OR 0.9, 95% CI = 0.6 to 1.3). Patients with BDS were characterised by poor health-related quality of life (HRQOL) on the 12-item Short-Form Health Survey, that is, physical component summary scores <40 (OR 20.5, 95% CI = 12.9 to 32.4) and mental component summary scores <40 (OR 3.5, 95% CI = 2.2 to 5.6). Furthermore, patients with BDS were more likely to have high scores on the Symptom Checklist for anxiety (OR 2.2, 95% CI = 1.4 to 3.4) and depression (OR 5.1, 95% CI = 3.3 to 7.9), but regression analyses showed that mental morbidity did not account for the poor HRQOL.
CONCLUSION: BDS is common among primary care patients, and patients with BDS have a higher probability of poor HRQOL and mental health problems.