Non-cardiac chest pain: prevalence, risk factors, impact and consulting--a population-based study

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003 May 1;17(9):1115-24. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.2003.01557.x.


Background: Little is known about the prevalence and importance of non-cardiac chest pain in the general population.

Aim: To evaluate the magnitude and impact of this condition.

Methods: A validated self-report questionnaire was mailed to a sample of 1000 residents of Penrith, selected randomly from the electoral rolls. Symptoms, risk factors, psychological distress, quality of life and demographics were measured.

Results: The response rate was 73% (n = 672; mean age, 46 years; 52% female). Chest pain ever was reported by 39% of the population; 7% reported a history of myocardial infarction and 8% a history of angina. Two hundred and nineteen (33%) cases were classified as non-cardiac chest pain; only 23% had consulted a physician about chest pain in the previous year. The only independent risk factor for non-cardiac chest pain was the frequency of heartburn (odds ratio, 1.74; 95% confidence interval, 1.08-2.79; P = 0.02). None of the gastrointestinal (heartburn, dysphagia, acid regurgitation) or psychological (anxiety, depression, neuroticism) risk factors were significantly associated with consulting for non-cardiac chest pain.

Conclusions: Non-cardiac chest pain is remarkably common in the general population and negatively impacts on the quality of life. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is a key risk factor for non-cardiac chest pain in the community. Health care seeking for non-cardiac chest pain remains unexplained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chest Pain / epidemiology
  • Chest Pain / etiology*
  • Chest Pain / psychology
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Surveys and Questionnaires