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Chinese School Children Found to Have High Levels of Stress

Last Updated: January 20, 2010.

Primary school children in China's highly competitive education system commonly experience psychosomatic symptoms as a result of school pressure-related stress, according to a study published online Jan. 13 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Primary school children in China's highly competitive education system commonly experience psychosomatic symptoms as a result of school pressure-related stress, according to a study published online Jan. 13 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Therese Hesketh, Ph.D., of University College London, and colleagues at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, used self-completion questionnaires to examine the incidence of stress-related abdominal pain and headache in 2,191 9- to 12-year-old children in urban and rural schools in eastern China.

The study revealed ubiquitous stressors regardless of gender or location, with 81 percent of respondents reporting worrying "a lot" about exams and 63 percent expressing fear of punishment by teachers. Bullying and physical punishment by parents were reported by 44 and 73 percent of respondents, respectively, the researchers note. While 37 percent of the students reported headache at least once a week, 36 percent reported abdominal pain; and, children who were in the highest quartile for stress score were four times more likely than the lowest quartile to exhibit psychosomatic symptoms.

"There is almost no awareness of the possibility of psychosomatic symptomatology in children, who are almost always treated entirely symptomatically for conditions such as headache and abdominal pain, without any consideration of underlying psychological causation," the authors write. "We hope that in disseminating these results, we may raise awareness of the frequency and importance of psychosomatic symptomatology in Chinese children."

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