Background. The importance of somatization among older primary care attenders is unclear. We aimed to establish the prevalence, persistence and associations of somatization among older primary care attenders, and the associations of frequent attendance.
Method. One hundred and forty primary care attenders over 65 years were rated twice, 10 months apart, on measures of somatization, psychiatric status, physical health and attendance.
Results. The syndrome of GMS hypochondriacal neurosis had a prevalence of 5% but was transient. Somatized symptoms and attributions were persistent and associated with depression, physical illness and perceived poor social support. Frequent attenders (top third) had higher rates of depression, physical illness and somatic symptoms, and lower perceived support.
Conclusion. Somatization is common among older primary care attenders and has similar correlates to younger primary care somatizers. Psychological distress among older primary care attenders is associated with frequent attendance. Improved recognition should result in benefits to patients and services.