A multinational survey of prevalence and patterns of laxative use among adults with self-defined constipation

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Oct 1;28(7):917-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2008.03806.x. Epub 2008 Jul 17.


Background: While numerous studies report prevalence of constipation, use of laxatives is poorly understood.

Aim: To conduct a survey in seven countries evaluating prevalence of constipation and laxative use in its treatment.

Methods: Thirteen thousand eight hundred seventy-nine adults [approximately 2000 each from US, UK, Germany (GE), France (FR), Italy (IT), Brazil (BR) and South Korea (SK)] completed questionnaires assessing occurrence, frequency, duration and laxative use for treating constipation.

Results: Overall, 12.3% of adults had constipation [range: 5% (GE) to 18% (US)] in the prior year. A greater percent of women from all countries and elderly from all except SK and BR reported constipation; odds ratios for constipation among women and elderly were 2.43 (95% CI: 2.18-2.71) and 1.5 (95% CI: 1.25-1.73) vs. men and young subjects. Among those with constipation, 16% (SK) to 40% (US) used laxatives. Laxative use was generally associated with increasing age, symptom frequency and lower income and education. A similar percentage of men and women with constipation reported using laxatives; a greater percentage of women used laxatives for a longer time.

Conclusions: Prevalence of self-defined constipation and laxative use varies among countries. Prevalence is generally related to gender and age, whereas laxative use is related to age, but not to gender.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Constipation / drug therapy*
  • Constipation / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Laxatives / administration & dosage*
  • Laxatives / therapeutic use
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Administration
  • Sex Factors


  • Laxatives