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The Relationship of Somatic Symptoms with Psychological Distress, Depression, Loneliness and Social Support in Iranian Students Using Modeling

Mahboubeh Dadfar, Agha Fatemeh Hosseini and David Lester


Published: 2024/03/01


The present study investigates the relationship of somatic symptoms with psychological distress, depression, loneliness and social support in students of Iran University of Medical Sciences using modeling and path analysis. This is a descriptive, cross-sectional, correlational study. A convenience and volunteer sample of 260 students aged 17 to 46 was selected from schools in Iran University of Medical Sciences. Students completed the Patient Health Questionnaire-15, the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, the Patient Health Questionnair-9, the Loneliness Scale, and the Social Support Appraisals Scale. Psychological distress, depressive symptoms and loneliness (as risk factors) had significant positive associations with somatic symptoms, and social support (as a protective factor) had a significant negative association. A multivariate regression model was used to predict somatic symptom scores, and explained between 36.6 % and 38.4 % of the variance in somatic symptom scores. Sex, psychological distress, and depressive symptoms contributed significantly to the prediction of somatic symptom scores, while age did not. Students who experienced greater psychological distress and depressive symptoms were more likely to report more somatic symptoms. Path analysis using the Macro Process Model showed that depression and psychological distress, in part via loneliness, fully mediated the association between social support and somatic symptoms. Female students reported significantly more somatic symptoms than did male students. An increase in social support may lead to a decrease in somatic symptoms by alleviating loneliness and depression or by alleviating loneliness and psychological distress. Moreover, the variances in depression and psychological distress scores based on the direct effect of loneliness, which was directly affected by social support, may lead to changes in somatic symptoms. Future research can focus on the interaction between social support and other variables. The present study provides basic information about somatic symptoms among students. The findings of the study may be useful for guiding university counseling services in student screening services as well as for clinical practice. Keywords: Somatic symptoms, Psychological distress, Depression, Loneliness, Social support, University students, Iran

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