Sociodemographic and lifestyle factors associated with constipation in an elderly Asian community

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 May;94(5):1283-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.01078.x.


Objective: We surveyed elderly individuals in an Asian community to determine the prevalence of constipation and its association with sociodemographic and lifestyle factors. This information will be used to plan a health promotion program for the elderly.

Methods: A random sample of 2807 residents aged > or = 60 yr in Singapore were interviewed in their homes, using a standardized questionnaire. The response rate was 87.4% (n = 2454).

Results: The overall age- and gender-adjusted prevalence rate of functional constipation was 11.6 per 100 persons (95% confidence interval [CI], 11.4-11.7). There were no gender or ethnic differences in constipation rates. Increased rates of constipation were significantly associated with advancing age. We found a significant dose-response relationship of increased constipation rates with decreased intake of rice, increased intake of Chinese tea, and number of chronic illnesses and medications, after controlling for potential confounders. Constipation was also significantly associated with lower intake of fruits and vegetables, but no dose-response gradient was seen.

Conclusions: Patients taking many medications should be monitored for constipation and given advice to avoid constipating factors. Further studies are needed to establish the causal-effect relationship of rice and Chinese tea with constipation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Constipation / ethnology
  • Constipation / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Drug Therapy
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Tea / adverse effects


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Tea