Persistent somatization patients put a serious burden on the health care system with multiple admissions, tests, surgeries, and medications. This study reports on factors relevant to the health-seeking behavior of somatizing patients and aspects of the health care system that facilitate their overutilization of health resources. Individuals (age 17-49 years) from the general population of two Danish municipalities with at least 10 general admissions during an 8-year period were studied comparing persistent somatizers with other high utilizers of medical admissions. Results are reported on geographical mobility, change in family doctors, route and distribution of admissions by time of day or week, discharges against medical advice, physical disease overlooked, and distribution of admissions to specialties. Although the health-seeking behavior of persistent somatizers may in part explain their overutilization of health care resources, such overutilization could be reduced and much suffering avoided if physicians displayed the same enthusiasm in diagnosing somatization as in ruling out organic pathology.
Comment In: Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1993 Jul;15(4):208-108344509