Prevalence of Psychosomatic Symptoms among Traumatized Palestinian Adolescents in the Gaza Strip

Aims: To estimate the prevalence of psychosomatic symptoms among traumatized Palestinian adolescents in Gaza Strip. 

Methods: The study sample consisted of 380 adolescents randomly selected from secondary schools in Gaza Strip, of whom 171 were boys and 209 were girls between 15-18 years. Data was collected using a socio-demographic checklist, the Gaza Traumatic Events Checklist, and the Psychosomatic Symptoms Scale. For statistical analysis, questionnaire data was normally distributed, for this reason independent t-test was used to investigate differences between two groups. Associations between continuous variables were measured by the Pearson’s correlation coefficient test. One-way ANOVA post hoc Tukey was used to investigate differences between more than two groups.

Results: The most common reported traumatic events due to the war on Gaza were: watching mutilated bodies and wounded people in TV (92.3%), and hearing shelling of the area by artillery (89.4%). The mean number of traumatic events experienced by Palestinian adolescents was 14. Boys reported significantly more traumatic events than girls. Adolescents from family with monthly income less than 150 US $ experienced more traumatic events than the other groups. Mean psychosomatic symptoms was 48.19, digestive system symptoms was 19.97, cardiovascular symptoms was 10.23,  respiratory system symptoms was 3.82, urogenital system symptoms was 2.98,  skeletal musculature symptoms was 5.29, and skin symptoms was 7.34. Boys scored more in total psychosomatic and skin symptoms. There was a significant relationship between traumatic experiences and psychosomatic symptoms.

Conclusion: Palestinian adolescents experienced significant traumatic events due to the war on Gaza Strip which were significantly associated with developing psychosomatic symptoms. Such findings highlight the urgent need for establishing community mental health school based programs to help adolescents with such symptoms and increase awareness about their nature and management. Also there is need for conducting training courses for teachers and school counsellors to increase their knowledge about general mental health problems in schools and ways of dealing with such problems. Also, training courses for primary care and hospital physicians, who might attribute to physical causes, and liaison between physical and mental health services.

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