Prevalence of functional bowel disorders and related health care seeking: a population-based study

Z Gastroenterol. 2002 Mar;40(3):177-83. doi: 10.1055/s-2002-22324.


Objectives: There are few population-based studies on prevalence of functional bowel disorders (FBD) and related health care seeking. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the prevalence of FBD in a population-based sample and to assess FBD-related health care seeking and medication in Germany.

Material: Cross-sectional study, based on an age- and sex-stratified random sample of 2,400 subjects aged 21-80 years in Düsseldorf, Germany (about 500,000 population). Assessment was performed using a postal written questionnaire.

Methods: Prevalence of gastrointestinal pain or discomfort in the past 12 months was assessed, in particular, lower abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Furthermore, health care seeking and medication (prescribed and over-the-counter) due to FBD was assessed. Multiple logistic regression (survey estimated) was performed to evaluate associations of FBD with age, sex, and the socioeconomic status (SES).

Results: 1,281 subjects (53.4 %) were analyzed. Standardized prevalences were 22.6 % (95 %-CI: 20.3 - 25.1 %) for lower abdominal pain and 12.5 % (10.7-14.5 %) for IBS. Both lower abdominal pain and IBS were significantly less frequent in the older population compared to younger subjects. No significant differences were found for gender and SES. Among subjects with lower abdominal pain and IBS, 55.1 % and 49.3 % reported health care seeking due to their GI disorders, and 63.9 % and 56.2 % reported use of medication, respectively.

Conclusions: A high prevalence of functional bowel disorders was found in this population-based study in Germany. Only about half of the subjects reported health care seeking due to their bowel disorders. Self-medication with over-the-counter agents was frequently performed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*