Although at least 20 different functional somatic syndromes (FSS) have been described, and overlaps between individual FSS and a high comorbidity with depressive and anxiety disorders have been suggested, barely any studies have examined a broad array of FSS within one study. Moreover, information on psychosocial risk factors gained from prospective studies is scarce.
This study aimed to determine prevalence rates, overlap, and comorbidity in 17 FSS and to estimate the influence of psychosocial risk factors on the development of FSS.
In total, 3,054 students (73.4 % women) completed a Web survey containing questions on FSS, comorbidity, and psychosocial risk factors at baseline. Of these, 429 completed the survey again 6 months later.
The prevalence of any FSS was 9.5 %, with 227 (78.6 %) subjects fulfilling criteria for only one FSS, 49 (17.0 %) reporting two, and 12 (4.2 %) reporting three syndromes simultaneously. Only one person suffered from four FSS at the same time. “Major depressive syndrome” (15.6 %), “panic syndrome” (4.8 %), and “other anxiety syndromes” (19.7 %) frequently occurred among persons with FSS. Significant predictors of FSS were number of somatic symptoms (OR = 1.15), impairment in daily activities (OR = 3.17), depression (OR = 1.13), and somatization (OR = 1.15).
Our findings indicate that FSS are common in nonclinical samples. The frequency of overlap and comorbidity in FSS was lower compared with previous research. A consideration of psychosocial risk factors is warranted in the prevention and management of FSS.