Aims: To describe the prevalence and severity of dyspepsia and gastro-oesophageal reflux in the community, to investigate their association with lifestyle factors and to evaluate the consultation pattern for these conditions.
Method: A previously validated questionnaire was posted to 1000 adults randomly selected from the electoral rolls of the greater Wellington region. It investigated symptoms of dyspepsia, reflux, lifestyle and consultation pattern over the previous twelve months.
Results: Response rate was 81.7%. Prevalence of dyspepsia was 34.2%. Prevalence of reflux was 30%. The overall prevalence of both symptom groups combined was 45.2%. Most subjects had multiple symptoms. Results indicated 63% of subjects with reflux also had symptoms of dyspepsia and 56% of subjects with dyspepsia showed symptoms of reflux. Although 69% of subjects with heartburn used over-the-counter medications, only 17% consulted medical practitioners. Current and ex-smokers had a higher prevalence of reflux. Dyspeptic symptoms were not associated with alcohol intake or aspirin use. Prevalence of dyspeptic symptoms did not change with increasing age.
Conclusions: Dyspepsia is very common in the community. Significant overlap among the subgroups of dyspepsia makes a classification, based on symptoms alone, of questionable value. Frequency and severity of symptoms should be incorporated in the definition to exclude those subjects with trivial symptoms.