In Sweden, a high level of stress among adolescents has been frequently reported in recent decades. However, we know little about whether stress may affect different physiological systems. We aimed to identify psychosocial factors that are associated with stress during adolescence and to study the associations between the levels of adolescents’ self-perceived stress, psychosomatic problems and physiological functions.Design and Method:
A total of 177 healthy adolescents (99 females, mean age 13.6 ± 0.5 years) from different districts in Gothenburg participated in the study. We used well-validated questionnaires to examine self-perceived stress (PSS), happiness index, familial factors, peer relations, school satisfaction and psychosomatic problems such as ‘difficulty concentrating’, ‘difficulty sleeping’, ‘suffers from headaches’, ‘suffers from stomach-aches’, ‘feels tense’, ‘poor appetite’ and ‘feels low’. We measured BMI, resting blood pressure and the number of circulating leukocytes.Results:
We found that in these adolescents, high level of stress during the last month was associated with low level of happiness index (r = −0.551, p < 0.001), school satisfaction (r = −0.549, p < 0.001), and good relation with parents (r = −0.484, p < 0.001). These three factors accounted for 44% of the variation in stress. Furthermore, we found that high level of stress was associated with high level of psychosomatic problems (r = 0.652, p < 0.001). Adolescents in the highest quartile of stress had high number of leukocytes (6.8 ± 1.8 x109/L) than those in the lowest stress quartile (5.8 ± 1.5 x109/L) and those in the second stress quartile (5.8 ± 1.4 x109/L), both with p < 0.05 (Bonferroni). We did not find any statistically significant difference in BMI or resting blood pressure.Conclusions:
Our data suggest that school, parents and feeling happy are the most important determinants for the stress level in 13-year-olds, and adolescents who have high level of stress are likely to report more psychosomatic problems and have high number of leukocytes, indicating an elevated degree of subclinical, most likely, chronic inflammatory state.