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Somatic symptoms have ‘greatest impact’ on quality of life in heart disease

Somatic symptoms in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) have ‘the greatest impact on quality of life,’ claims a new study.


The study

German researchers looked at 387 adults from cardiac outpatient clinics with clinically confirmed CHD. The patients completed questionnaires assessing sociodemographic data, health-related quality of life (EQ-5D), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale-7), and depression (PHQ-9).

The findings

The researchers assessed 15 somatic symptoms of which 11 were frequently reported by at least 30% of patients and 50% of patients reported at least 5 somatic symptoms. The top five somatic complaints were having trouble sleeping which was reported by 297 patients with 104 being bothered a lot, feeling tired or having low energy levels reported by 274 patients of which 116 were being bothered a lot, 244 patients had pain in the arms, legs or joints of which 106 were bothered a lot and 237 had back pain with 86 patients being bothered a lot of by the symptoms.

Higher somatic symptom severity was independently linked with depression, while patients with lower quality of life had higher somatic symptom severity.

What it means for GPs

The researchers said this was the first study in patients with CHD that investigated the prevalence of perceived somatic symptoms The authors concluded: ‘The present study demonstrates that above and beyond sociodemographic, cardiac, or psychological factors, somatic symptom severity has the greatest impact on quality of life.’

JAMA Intern Med 2013, online 17 June