Objectives: The prevalence of functional constipation is highly variable among epidemiological surveys and may relate to the definitions applied. We estimated the population prevalence of self-reported, Rome I-defined, and Rome II-defined constipation in Canada and determined the variables that best predicted health care seeking.
Methods: A research firm was employed to conduct a random digit dial national survey, inviting household members at least 18 yr of age to participate in a study assessing personal health issues. The sample was stratified to ensure that each region of Canada was represented. Data collection involved three stages: 1) recruitment of participants by phone, 2) mailing of the questionnaire, and 3) data retrieval through a follow-up phone call. The Rome II questionnaire was used to derive the prevalence of functional constipation using both Rome I and Rome II criteria.
Results: Of the 1149 participants, 27.2% self-reported constipation within the past 3 months, and 16.7% and 14.9% had functional constipation according to Rome I and II, criteria, respectively. For all three definitions, the rate for women was close to twice that for men. Approximately 34% of those with self-reported constipation had visited a physician for it, versus 26.3% of Rome II subjects. In a regression model, subjects self-reporting in the past 3 months were more likely to have seen a doctor for their constipation (odds ratio 2.47, p < 0.01) and significantly more women than men (35.6% vs 19.5%, p < 0.05).
Conclusions: Functional constipation and related health care seeking are common in the Canadian population and are strongly determined by the definition used. The Rome II criteria for this disorder seem to be satisfactory, but modifications may be considered to allow for constipated subjects taking laxatives and to increase the number of qualifying symptoms.