Subjective Health Complaints commoner in those "who live under primitive conditions"


Senior Member
I happened to come across this. Often I have heard it said by psychs and the like that Subjective Health Complaints and some specific conditions are diseases of the West, etc.

There may well be a good reason why people "who live under primitive conditions" have more Subjective Health Complaints but possibly useful to note as a defence for those of us in the West, I thought.

2nd Abstract

Author Professor Naipinich Kotchabhakdi
Address Neuro-Behavioural Biology Center, Institute of Science and
Technology, Mahidol University Salaya Nakornpath, Thailand
Email Naiphinich Kotchabhakdi [scnkc@...]
Tel 662 4419321
Fax 662 4419743

Abstract Topic Cross-cultural aspects: East and west, north and

Authors Nittaya J. Kotchabhakdi, National Institute for Child and
Family Development, and Naiphinich Kotchabhakdi, Neuro-Behavioural
Biology Center, Institute of Science and Technology, Mahidol
University, Salaya, Nakornpathom, Thailand; Peer Staff, Vesta, Oslo

Body of abstract:
The prevalence of subjective health complaints
(SHC) has been mapped in Mangyan aboriginates in the Philippines, in
Maasais in Kenya, and in rural and urban samples in Thailand.

The prevalence has been compared with data deriving from Norwegian and
Nordic population samples.

An interview based version of SHC inventory was used for all populations.

The prevalence is high in all populations.

However, the prevalence is higher on most complaints for the Asian and the African samples.

Mangyans and Maasais, living under primitive conditions close to nature, have
more SHC than Norwegians, living in a modern, highly developed and
industrialised country.

The Thai population samples seem to be positioned in between the European and the Mangyans and Maasais.

SHC has also been measured in the Antarctic and in mining crews working
at Svalbard (Spitzbergen), almost at 80 degrees north.

These highly selected and volunteering crews have lower SHC than the average and
control groups in the Nordic populations.

Further studies will explore how SHC are interpreted in different cultures and how these
interpretations influence quality of and satisfaction with life.

Contributed support
Conflict of interest No

Ninth International Congress of Behavioral Medicine

Timeless - Thai Elegance - Amazing

Bridging Behaviour and Health

Connecting the Hemispheres

November 29th - Decenber 2nd 2006

Bangkok Thailand



Senior Member
I'd like to see how they define "subjective." If they just mean general complaints about the body, then's it's just describing what people are saying but if it's referring to "objective" vs. "subjective" illness, then it warrants further examination.

Some of these folks likely have no access to regular/ good medical care. It could well be that they have an undiagnosed "objective" illness. With some "Western" chronic illnesses, the examples I can think of refer to Africa, what was thought to be a low prevalent illness turned out to be not so low when researchers visited, examined, and tested populations. There is something to be said about how different groups might express how they feel (i.e. pain is expressed differently in different cultures) but this is a separate question than "subjective" illness.

Interesting topic though.


Senior Member
Some of these folks likely have no access to regular/ good medical care. It could well be that they have an undiagnosed "objective" illness.
I imagine it could be.

Just there is quite a lot about medically unexplained symptoms being interpreted as necessarily psychiatric or somatisation or some similar term and disparaging comments being made about people suffering from and they have little to be worried about or whatever, that I thought it was interesting to see. There have been newspapers articles that claimed "you don't see CFS (or ME) in Africa" which have been disparaging.

BTW, I had a quick look at PubMed and elsewhere earlier but couldn't find the paper anywhere.


senior member
Concord, NH
Is this article a bunch of goobly gook? or? To tired to read right now. I was just interested in what they mean by "primitive" conditions?