Although adolescents are generally healthy, subjective health complaints (SHC) are common in this age group, especially in adolescent girls. We explored the association between early menarche and the frequency of psychosomatic symptoms and how this association varies between countries.
Our sample included 298 000 adolescent girls from 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 cycles of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study in 41 European and North American countries. School surveys measured the frequency of eight psychosomatic symptoms in the past 6 months. Early maturation was defined as self-reported age at menarche below 11 years. Using logistic regression, we estimated adjusted ORs (aORs) and 95% CIsof experiencing each psychosomatic symptom at least more than once a week and experiencing two or more symptoms at least more than once a week.
Early menarche occurred in 4.73% of the sample and was positively related to headache, stomachache, backache, feeling low, irritability or bad temper, feeling nervous, difficulties in sleeping, feeling dizzy and two or more of these symptoms, respectively (all p values<0.001). The interactions between early menarche and survey circle were non-significant. Changing the age criterion to 12 years did not affect the results. The associations between early menarche and psychosomatic symptoms were robust across the HBSC-participating counties with two age criteria.
Early menarche positively relates to various psychosomatic symptoms in European and North American adolescent girls. Our findings suggest that early-maturing girls may need early supportive interventions.