Three-month prevalence rates of gastrointestinal symptoms and the influence of demographic factors: results from the Domestic/International Gastroenterology Surveillance Study (DIGEST)

Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1999;231:20-8. doi: 10.1080/003655299750025237.


Background: This paper reports the 3-month prevalence rates of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms from the Domestic/International Gastroenterology Surveillance Study (DIGEST), and their relationship with demographic factors; namely age, gender and body mass index (BMI).

Methods: Subjects were recruited from 10 international sites by a total of 5581 face-to-face interviews conducted with randomly selected members of the general population aged 18 years and over (50.6% female; mean age 44 years). The sample was divided according to whether subjects reported 1 or more of 14 GI symptoms, or no GI symptoms. Those with any of 11 upper GI symptoms were then subdivided according to their most bothersome symptom: gastro-oesophageal reflux (GORD)-like symptoms, ulcer-like symptoms or dysmotility-like symptoms. Symptoms were classified as relevant if they were of at least moderate severity and/or occurred at least once a week.

Results: A mean of 46.4% of subjects reported experiencing one or more of the 14 GI symptoms, with 28.1% experiencing upper GI symptoms classified as relevant. Significant differences between the prevalences of relevant symptoms were evident between sampling sites. The estimated prevalence of GORD-like symptoms for the pooled sample was 7.7%. For ulcer-like symptoms, prevalence was 4.1%, and for dysmotility-like symptoms 15.5%. Significant differences were observed in the prevalence rates of symptom groups between countries. Women were significantly more likely than men to experience relevant symptoms, with gender differences also observed in the rates of GORD-like and dysmotility-like symptoms. The proportion of those with relevant symptoms experiencing GORD-like symptoms increased significantly with age; ulcer-like symptoms showed no significant relationship with age; and dysmotility-like symptoms decreased significantly with age. The prevalence of relevant symptoms increased with increasing BMI.

Conclusions: In conclusion, the DIGEST has provided valuable data on the cross-country prevalence of upper GI symptoms, and their association with biological factors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Dyspepsia / classification
  • Dyspepsia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / classification*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Quality of Life
  • Sampling Studies
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population