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Revista de la Universidad Industrial de Santander. Salud

Print version ISSN 0121-0807


CASTILLA PUENTES, Ruby C. et al. Depression, Anxiety and Somatic Complaints in Colombian Children Living in Rural Communities. Rev. Univ. Ind. Santander. Salud [online]. 2013, vol.45, n.2, pp.9-19. ISSN 0121-0807.

Introduction: In Colombia, children are frequently exposed to traumatic events; however, there are no data regarding the impact on depression, anxiety and somatic correlates of such exposure in children living in rural communities. Objective: To investigate the somatic complaints and symptoms of depression and anxiety among children exposed to traumatic events in a rural community of Colombia. Methods: Design: Cross-Sectional study. Participants: Two hundred and ninety-three Colombian children aged eight to 18 years. Main Outcome Measures: Standardized measures were administered to assess children's depression, anxiety, physical symptoms and exposure to traumatic events. Depression: CDI (Children's Depression Inventory); anxiety: SCARED (The Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders); somatic complaints: CBCL (Child Behavior Checklist, Somatic Complaints scale) and reporting traumatic events during the K-SADS-PL (Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents). Results: Ninety-one of the 293 children (31.1%) reported somatic complaints. The most common somatic complaint was in the gastrointestinal category (35/91). One hundred and seventy eight children (60.5%) had observed traumatic events, including homicides during the last month. Two hundred five (69.9%) of the children showed depressive symptom profiles above established norms, and 239 (81.6%) exhibited anxiety symptoms according to their own reports. The correlation between depression and traumatic events, anxiety and somatic complaints, and between anxiety and depression were statistically significant (p<0.005). Conclusions: As the first study of its kind in children living in rural communities in Colombia, it demonstrates a clear impact of traumatic events on mental health. Information that somatic complaints are commonly an expression of underlying depression and anxiety may facilitate the treatment and thereby help avoid unnecessary medical workups and sequelae from traumatized children. It is important for physicians to probe for "hidden" symptoms in traumatized children.

Keywords : depression; somatization; traumatic events; anxiety.

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