Systematic review: ageing and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease symptoms, oesophageal function and reflux oesophagitis

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Feb;33(4):442-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2010.04542.x. Epub 2010 Dec 8.


Background: Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is thought to become more prevalent with age.

Aim: To assess systematically how age affects the prevalence of GERD and its oesophageal complications.

Methods: Systematic PubMed searches were used to identify population-based studies on the age-related prevalence and incidence of GERD, and clinical studies on age-related changes in oesophageal complications in GERD.

Results: Nine population-based studies and seven clinical studies met the inclusion criteria. Four of seven prevalence studies observed no significant effect of age on GERD symptom prevalence, two did not report on statistical significance and one observed a significant age-related increase in symptom prevalence. The two population-based endoscopic surveys showed no significant effect of age on reflux oesophagitis prevalence. Clinical studies in patients with GERD showed an increase in reflux oesophagitis severity and a decrease in heartburn severity with age, and age-related increases in oesophageal acid exposure and anatomical disruption of the gastro-oesophageal junction.

Conclusions: Epidemiological studies do not show an increase in GERD symptom prevalence with age. However, in individuals with GERD, ageing is associated with more severe patterns of acid reflux and reflux oesophagitis; despite this, symptoms associated with GERD become less severe and more nonspecific with ageing. Thus, the real prevalence of GERD may well increase with age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Gastric Acid / physiology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / epidemiology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index