University of Oulu

Aino I.L. Saarinen, Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen, Terho Lehtimäki, Antti Jula, C. Robert Cloninger, Mirka Hintsanen, Somatic complaints in early adulthood predict the developmental course of compassion into middle age, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Volume 131, 2020, 109942, ISSN 0022-3999,

Somatic complaints in early adulthood predict the developmental course of compassion into middle age

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Author: Saarinen, Aino I.L.1,2; Keltikangas-Järvinen, Liisa2; Lehtimäki, Terho3;
Organizations: 1Research Unit of Psychology, University of Oulu, Finland
2Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland
3Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories and Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Finnish Cardiovascular Research Center, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
4Department of Public Health Solutions, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Helsinki, Finland
5Department of Psychiatry, Washington University, St. Louis, United States of America
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-01-28


Objective: The aim of the present study was to investigate (i) whether somatic complaints predict the developmental course of compassion in adulthood, and (ii) whether this association depends on alexithymic features.

Methods: The participants came from the population-based Young Finns study (N = 471–1037). Somatic complaints (headache, stomachache, chest pain, backache, fatigue, exhaustion, dizziness, heartburn, heartbeat, and tension) were evaluated with a self-rating questionnaire in 1986 when participants were aged between 18 and 24 years. Compassion was assessed with the Compassion Scale of the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) in 1997, 2001, and 2012. The data were analyzed using growth curve models.

Results: We obtained a significant compassion-age interaction (B = −0.137, p = 0.02) and a compassion-age squared interaction (B = 0.007, p = 0.006), when predicting the course of somatic complaints. Specifically, in participants without frequent somatic complaints, compassion steadily increased with age in adulthood. In participants with frequent somatic complaints, however, compassion remained at a lower level until the age of 40 years, then started to increase, and achieved the normal level of compassion approximately at the age of 50 years. The association between somatic complaints and compassion over age was found to be independent of alexithymic features. The analyses were adjusted for a variety of covariates (age, gender, use of health care in childhood, depression in childhood, parental socioeconomic factors, parental care-giving practices, stressful life events, parental alcohol intoxication, and participants’ socioeconomic factors in adulthood).

Conclusions: Frequent somatic complaints may predict delayed development of compassion in adulthood. This association was found to be independent of alexithymic features.

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Series: Journal of psychosomatic research
ISSN: 0022-3999
ISSN-E: 1879-1360
ISSN-L: 0022-3999
Volume: 131
Article number: 109942
DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2020.109942
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
Funding: This study was supported financially by the Academy of Finland (M.H., grant number 308676). The Young Finns Study has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland: Grants 322098, 286284, 134309 (Eye), 126925, 121584, 124282, 129378 (Salve), 117797 (Gendi), and 41071 (Skidi); the Social Insurance Institution of Finland; Competitive State Research Financing of the Expert Responsibility Area of Kuopio, Tampere and Turku University Hospitals (grant X51001); the Juho Vainio Foundation; the Sigrid Juselius Foundation; the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation; the Paavo Nurmi Foundation; the Finnish Foundation of Cardiovascular Research; Finnish Cultural Foundation; the Tampere Tuberculosis Foundation; the Emil Aaltonen Foundation; and Diabetes Research Foundation of Finnish Diabetes Association.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 308676
Detailed Information: 308676 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2020. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license