Background: Though functional gastrointestinal complaints are recognised as being common throughout the world, there have been few comparative studies of prevalence.
Aim: To compare the prevalence and management of abdominal cramping/pain in nine countries.
Methods: In a two-stage community survey, approximately 1000 subjects were interviewed in each of nine countries to establish the demographics of individuals with abdominal cramping/pain (stage 1) followed by market research-driven interviews with >or=200 sufferers per country (stage 2).
Results: 9042 subjects were interviewed in stage 1. Mexico (46%) and Brazil (43%) had the highest prevalence of abdominal cramping/pain; Japan the lowest (10%). Abdominal cramping/pain was more common in women (12-55%) than in men (7-38%). About 1717 subjects participated in stage 2; 65% were women and the average age at symptom onset was 29 years. The frequency of episodes differed between countries, being highest in the US (61% suffered at least once in a week). Sufferers in the US and Latin America reported a higher usage of medications (around 90%) than those in Europe (around 72%). In most countries over-the-counter drugs were principally used. Antispasmodic drugs were most popular in Latin America and Italy, antacids in Germany and the UK. Drug therapy decreased the duration of episodes (by up to 81% in Brazil).
Conclusions: The community prevalence, severity, healthcare seeking and medication usage related to abdominal cramping/pain are high overall, but vary considerably between countries.