Background: Despite the rapidly growing body of literature on health-related quality of life (HRQoL). placing the results in a context that is meaningful to clinicians and patients is often overlooked.
Objective: This study sought to quantify the impact of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on HRQoL by comparing the Medical Outcomes Study 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) scores of IBS patients with normative US data and with the scores of patients having other chronic gastrointestinal (GI) and non-GI disorders.
Methods: Two IBS reference groups were identified from the published literature: a largely untreated community sample of health maintenance organization (HMO) members (N = 92) and a sample of patients with IBS recruited through clinics and in the community (N = 140). SF-36 scores for these groups were compared with published US population norms (N = 2474) and with published scores for 3 other IBS samples (N = 464); a sample with other chronic GI disorders (dyspepsia [N = 126], gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] [N = 516]); and samples with other chronic episodic disorders (asthma [N = 375], migraine [N = 303], panic disorder [N = 73], rheumatoid arthritis [N = 693]).
Results: The scores of patients in both IBS reference groups were significantly lower on several SF-36 domains than those of the US normative population (P < 0.003). Scores on several SF-36 scales were also significantly lower in the IBS reference groups compared with the GERD, asthma, and migraine samples (P < 0.003). Depending on the IBS sample used, scores did not differ or were higher compared with those in the sample with dyspepsia. Relative to the samples with panic disorder and rheumatoid arthritis, the IBS groups had significantly higher scores on most SF-36 domains (P < 0.003). Scores for the HMO reference group were generally higher than those for the clinic/community reference group.
Conclusions: Based on the results of this analysis, IBS is associated with impairment of HRQoL relative to US population norms and to populations with GERD, asthma, or migraine. HRQoL appears to be greater in patients with IBS than in those with panic disorder or rheumatoid arthritis, although the relative symptom severity in these samples was not known.