OBJECTIVES: Neurovegetative and somatic symptoms (such as headaches, heart palpitations and dizziness) have a high prevalence. These symptoms are often indicative for 'masked depression' or 'depression without sadness', especially in older adults. At present, no instrument exists which enables the assessment of these symptoms. This study presents a questionnaire which assesses neurovegetative and somatic complaints, as well as reactive emotional complaints: the 'Neurovegetative Complaints Questionnaire' (NCQ). METHODS: The factor structure, internal consistency and validity of the NCQ were evaluated in a very large sample of 1105 healthy subjects aged 24-81 years from the Maastricht Aging Study. The effects of age, sex and educational level on the NCQ measures were established to provide demographically corrected normative data. RESULTS: Two constructs underlay the responses to the NCQ items, i.e. the neurovegetative/somatic and reactive/emotional complaints factors (eigenvalues were 4.63 and 1.65, respectively, 33.0% of the variance was explained, Pearson's r between both factors equalled 0.448). Internal consistency of both scales was acceptable (i.e. Cronbach's alpha = 0.74 and 0.71, respectively) and convergent validity was sufficient (Pearson's r = |0.387 - 0.499|). Females and older participants were characterised by more neurovegetative/somatic and reactive/emotional complaints compared to males and younger people. Demographically corrected regression-based norms were provided for use in research and clinical settings. CONCLUSIONS: The NCQ is a psychometrically sound questionnaire that is specifically aimed at assessing neurovegetative/somatic and reactive/emotional complaints, symptoms that often are indicative for a 'masked depression'.