Prevalence and demographics of irritable bowel syndrome: results from a large web-based survey

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Nov 15;22(10):935-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2005.02671.x.


Background: Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gastrointestinal disorder, and its prevalence and demographics have been evaluated by different methodologies with varying results.

Aim: To evaluate irritable bowel syndrome demographic and prevalence characteristics utilizing a web-enabled panel.

Methods: From an existing 150 000-member panel, 31 829 individuals were randomly selected and sent screening questionnaires to evaluate irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Individuals who agreed to participate and completed the screening questionnaire received a second questionnaire related to a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, a more detailed symptom description, and additional burden of illness data.

Results: Irritable bowel syndrome prevalence was 7%. Prevalence was higher in women vs. men, unmarried individuals vs. married individuals and unemployed individuals vs. employed individuals. Of those completing the second questionnaire, 51% had seen their physicians for irritable bowel syndrome symptoms in the past year and most had an episode within the past 3 months. During the past year, approximately half of the participants had used a prescription medication, and over 90% had used an over-the-counter medication for irritable bowel syndrome. Participants with irritable bowel syndrome demonstrated quality-of-life reductions relative to norms of the United States population.

Conclusions: Web-enabled data collection represents a novel tool for rapidly surveying a large population of individuals with irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology