Treatments for Somatization and Functional Disability Improves QoL in Children With IBS

young boy with stomachache
Boy holding his stomach, experiencing pain
Researchers compared the associations between abdominal pain and psychosocial distress with health-related quality-of-life in children with IBS.

In children with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), treatments targeting somatization and functional disability could improve health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) and may decrease morbidity, according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

Children with IBS have lower HRQOL than healthy controls. However, while abdominal pain and psychosocial distress are negatively associated with HRQOL, their relative effect is unclear. Therefore, researchers compared the relative associations of abdominal pain and psychosocial distress with HRQOL in 85 healthy controls and 213 children with IBS. Study participants were children aged 7 to 18 years recruited from a large health care network based in Houston, Texas.

The researchers found that somatization was most strongly associated with physical HRQOL in healthy controls, and functional disability was most strongly related in patients with IBS.

Somatization was strongly associated for both healthy controls and patients with IBS, with respect to psychosocial HRQOL. Depression was also significantly associated for healthy controls.

The strength of association between somatization and physical HRQOL differed between groups, with the negative association being less pronounced for patients with IBS than for healthy controls. The association between functional disability and both physical and psychosocial HRQOL also differed significantly between groups, with the negative associations being more pronounced for children with IBS than for healthy controls.

“In summary, our results indicate that despite greater abdominal pain and psychological distress in children with IBS relative to healthy children, only a few specific psychosocial distress measures are associated with lower Physical and Psychosocial HRQOL,” stated the authors. They added, “This knowledge supports utilization of psychosocial interventions to improve overall well-being for children with IBS.”


Hollier JM, Czyzewski DI, Self MM, et al. Associations of abdominal pain and psychosocial distress measures with health-related quality-of-life in pediatric healthy controls and irritable bowel syndrome. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2021;55:422–428. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000001373

This article originally appeared on Gastroenterology Advisor