Background: Persons with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are seriously affected in their everyday life. The effect across different cultural settings of IBS on their quality of life has been little studied. The aim was to compare health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of individuals suffering from IBS in two different cultural settings; Crete, Greece and Linköping, Sweden.
Methods: This study is a sex and age-matched case-control study, with n = 30 Cretan IBS cases and n = 90 Swedish IBS cases and a Swedish control group (n = 300) randomly selected from the general population. Health-related quality of life, measured by SF-36 and demographics, life style indicators and co-morbidity, was measured.
Results: Cretan IBS cases reported lower HRQOL on most dimensions of SF-36 in comparison to the Swedish IBS cases. Significant differences were found for the dimensions mental health (p < 0.0001) and general health (p = 0.05) even after adjustments for educational level and co-morbidity. Women from Crete with IBS scored especially low on the dimensions general health (p = 0.009) and mental health (p < 0.0001) in comparison with Swedish women with IBS. The IBS cases, from both sites, reported significantly lower scores on all HRQOL dimensions in comparison with the Swedish control group.
Conclusion: The results from this study tentatively support that the claim that similar individuals having the same disease, e.g. IBS, but living in different cultural environments could perceive their disease differently and that the disease might affect their everyday life and quality of life in a different way. The Cretan population, and especially women, are more seriously affected mentally by their disease than Swedish IBS cases. Coping with IBS in everyday life might be more problematic in the Cretan environment than in the Swedish setting.