Prevalence and correlates of irritable bowel symptoms in a New Zealand birth cohort

N Z Med J. 2002 Oct 25;115(1164):U220.


Aim: To determine the prevalence and correlates of bowel symptoms and the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in a birth cohort of young New Zealanders.

Methods: Participants in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study at age 26 completed a validated Bowel Disease Questionnaire expressing their experience of clearly defined symptoms over the previous 12 months.

Results: 980 participants (499 male, 481 female, comprising 96% of the birth cohort) completed the questionnaire. Sixty four per cent had at least one of the measured symptoms; abdominal pain was reported in 46.5%, chronic constipation in 9.1%, and chronic diarrhoea in 17.1%. A diagnosis of IBS could be made by using two or more of Manning's diagnostic criteria in 18.8%, three or more criteria in 10.3%, and more than three in 3.3%. Symptoms were more than twice as frequent and severe in females than males.

Conclusions: Bowel-related abdominal symptoms, including those required for a diagnosis of IBS, are very common in 26-year-old New Zealanders; the prevalence of these symptoms is very similar to that recorded previously in Europe and the USA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / epidemiology
  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / complications
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / diagnosis
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / epidemiology*
  • Constipation / epidemiology
  • Constipation / etiology
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires