Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2014 Feb 4;6:71-80.
doi: 10.2147/CLEP.S40245. eCollection 2014.

The Epidemiology of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Free PMC article

The Epidemiology of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Caroline Canavan et al. Clin Epidemiol. .
Free PMC article


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional condition of the bowel that is diagnosed using clinical criteria. This paper discusses the nature of the diagnostic process for IBS and how this impacts epidemiological measurements. Depending on the diagnostic criteria employed, IBS affects around 11% of the population globally. Around 30% of people who experience the symptoms of IBS will consult physicians for their IBS symptoms. These people do not have significantly different abdominal symptoms to those who do not consult, but they do have greater levels of anxiety and lower quality of life. Internationally, there is a female predominance in the prevalence of IBS. There is 25% less IBS diagnosed in those over 50 years and there is no association with socioeconomic status. IBS aggregates within families and the genetic and sociological factors potentially underlying this are reviewed. Patients diagnosed with IBS are highly likely to have other functional disease and have more surgery than the general population. There is no evidence that IBS is associated with an increased mortality risk. The epidemiological evidence surrounding these aspects of the natural history is discussed.

Keywords: epidemiology; irritable bowel syndrome; mortality; natural history; prevalence.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Worldwide prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome, as reported by country.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 198 articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Chaudhary NA, Truelove SC. The irritable colon syndrome. A study of the clinical features, predisposing causes, and prognosis in 130 cases. Q J Med. 1962;31:307–322. - PubMed
    1. Kruse FH. Functional disorders of the colon: the spastic colon, the irritable colon, and mucous colitis. Cal West Med. 1933;39(2):97–103. - PMC - PubMed
    1. Irritable bowel syndrome. Br Med J. 1972;1(5794):197–198. No authors listed. - PMC - PubMed
    1. Longstreth GF, Thompson WG, Chey WD, Houghton LA, Mearin F, Spiller RC. Functional bowel disorders. Gastroenterology. 2006;130(5):1480–1491. - PubMed
    1. Spiegel BM, Farid M, Esrailian E, Talley J, Chang L. Is irritable bowel syndrome a diagnosis of exclusion? A survey of primary care providers, gastroenterologists, and IBS experts. Am J Gastroenterol. 2010;105(4):848–858. - PMC - PubMed

LinkOut - more resources