Prevalence of, and risk factors for, chronic idiopathic constipation in the community: systematic review and meta-analysis

Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Sep;106(9):1582-91; quiz 1581, 1592. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2011.164. Epub 2011 May 24.


Objectives: Chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder in the community, yet no previous systematic review and meta-analysis has estimated the global prevalence, or potential risk factors for the condition.

Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE, and EMBASE Classic were searched (up to December 2010) to identify population-based studies reporting the prevalence of CIC in adults (≥15 years), according to self-report, questionnaire, or specific symptom-based criteria. The prevalence of CIC was extracted for all studies, and according to country, age, gender, socioeconomic status, and presence or absence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) where reported. Pooled prevalence overall, and according to study location and certain other characteristics, as well as odds ratios (ORs), with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated.

Results: Of the 100 papers evaluated, 45 reported the prevalence of CIC in 41 separate study populations, containing 261,040 subjects. Pooled prevalence of CIC in all studies was 14% (95% CI: 12-17%). The prevalence of CIC was lower in South East Asian studies, and in studies using the Rome II or III criteria. The prevalence of CIC was higher in women (OR: 2.22; 95% CI: 1.87-2.62), and increased with age and lower socioeconomic status. The prevalence was markedly higher in subjects who also reported IBS (OR: 7.98; 95% CI: 4.58-13.92), suggesting common pathogenic mechanisms.

Conclusions: Pooled prevalence of CIC in the community was 14%, and of similar magnitude in most geographical regions. Rates were higher in women, older individuals, and those of lower socioeconomic status. Presence of IBS was strongly associated with CIC.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Constipation / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors