Abdominal pain linked to mental health and general well-being in teenagers

Teenagers who suffer abdominal bloating, pain, constipation and nausea are more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression or report reduced overall well-being, according to a new study from researchers involved with the Raine Study.

The research, published in Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, was conducted by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers using data collected from over 1200 Western Australian 17 year olds, part of the Raine Study.

Lead investigator Dr Oyekoya Ayonrinde from the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Fiona Stanley Hospital, said the team examined bowel patterns, abdominal symptoms and emotional well-being the teenagers.

Dr Ayonrinde, said they found that once per day bowel motions is not the norm for most teenagers and that the most common abdominal symptoms were abdominal bloating, pain, constipation and nausea.

“Teenage girls had more frequent abdominal symptoms than boys and an unhealthy diet consisting of high quantities of processed food was associated with worse symptoms, particularly in girls,” he said.

Dr Ayonrinde said these symptoms showed a link with increased rates of anxiety, depression and bullying at school – resulting in overall worse quality of life and interruption to schooling when compared with other teenagers.

“The findings suggest the physical and emotional impact of abdominal symptoms on teenagers may be underestimated,” he said.

Dr Ayonrinde said the study was important as it demonstrates that improved family, school and health professional awareness of the relationship between physical and psychological symptoms could help teenagers with ongoing symptoms before they progress into adulthood and further impact everyday life.

“Ultimately the gut affects feelings and feelings affect the gut,” he said.

“This research is further evidence of the complex relationship between emotional and physical health experiences.”

Doctor Ayonrinde was supported to undertake the research with a Department of Health / Raine Medical Research Foundation Clinician Research Fellowship in round six of the program.


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