Objective: To investigate the consequences of having a chronic digestive disorder on the social position of adolescents.
Methods: Five diagnostic groups, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic liver diseases, congenital digestive disorders, coeliac disease and food allergy (total n = 758, ages 12-25 years), were each compared with a population-based control group in a multicentre study using a cross-sectional design. Social position was assessed by a mailed questionnaire measuring 24 aspects, categorized as education, leisure activities, friendship, labour participation, financial situation, partnership and sexuality.
Results: Eight aspects of social position were found to be affected negatively by one or more chronic digestive diseases: absence from school due to illness, going out, having a paid job, needing re-education in order to get a job, getting benefits as main income source, encountering bottlenecks in establishing financial commitments, having self-confidence in making a pass at someone, and restrictions in making love. Adolescents with chronic liver disease and IBD were found to experience more restrictions in social position. Adolescents with food allergy and congenital digestive disorders appear to experience some restrictions, but to a lesser degree, and adolescents with coeliac disease do not appear to have any problems regarding social position compared with controls.
Conclusion: The social position of adolescents is affected negatively by having a chronic digestive disease, in particular chronic liver disease and IBD. Negative consequences occur in education, leisure activities, labour participation, financial situation, partnership and sexuality.