Background: The drivers of conventional and, especially, alternative health care use for irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia are not clear.
Aim: To determine the predictors of conventional and alternative health care use for irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia.
Methods: Two hundred and seven subjects with irritable bowel syndrome or functional dyspepsia, identified from a previous population survey, were included in the study. Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome/functional dyspepsia were defined as consulters (n = 103) if they had visited their doctor for gastrointestinal symptoms more than once in the past year. Controls (n = 100) did not report having any abdominal pain. Subjects were given structured interviews to assess the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - version IV (DSM-IV) and International Classification of Disorders - version 10 (ICD-10) psychiatric diagnosis for anxiety, depression, somatization or any psychiatric diagnosis, aspects of health care use and symptom factors.
Results: About one-half (n = 103, 49.8%) of community subjects with irritable bowel syndrome/functional dyspepsia had sought conventional care for gastrointestinal symptoms in the past 12 months. Lifetime rates for alternative health care use for gastrointestinal symptoms were 20.8% (n = 43). Independent predictors of conventional health care use were more frequent abdominal pain, greater interference of gastrointestinal symptoms with work and activities and a greater satisfaction with the physician-patient relationship. Being female independently predicted alternative health care use.
Conclusions: Psychological morbidity did not predict conventional or alternative health care use for gastrointestinal symptoms. Other factors were more important.