Epidemiology of pediatric functional abdominal pain disorders: a meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2015 May 20;10(5):e0126982. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126982. eCollection 2015.


Objective: We aimed to review the literature regarding epidemiology of functional abdominal pain disorders in children and to assess its geographic, gender and age distribution including associated risk factors of developing functional abdominal pain.

Methods: The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and PsychInfo databases were systematically searched up to February 2014. Study selection criteria included: (1) studies of birth cohort, school based or general population samples (2) containing data concerning epidemiology, prevalence or incidence (3) of children aged 4-18 years (4) suffering from functional abdominal pain. Quality of studies was rated by a self-made assessment tool. A random-effect meta-analysis model was used to estimate the prevalence of functional abdominal pain in childhood.

Results: A total of 58 articles, including 196,472 children were included. Worldwide pooled prevalence for functional abdominal pain disorders was 13.5% (95% CI 11.8-15.3), of which irritable bowel syndrome was reported most frequently (8.8%, 95% CI 6.2-11.9). The prevalence across studies ranged widely from 1.6% to 41.2%. Higher pooled prevalence rates were reported in South America (16.8%) and Asia (16.5%) compared to Europe (10.5%). And a higher pooled prevalence was reported when using the Rome III criteria (16.4%, 95% CI 13.5-19.4). Functional abdominal pain disorders are shown to occur significantly more in girls (15.9% vs. 11.5%, pooled OR 1.5) and is associated with the presence of anxiety and depressive disorders, stress and traumatic life events.

Conclusion: Functional abdominal pain disorders are a common problem worldwide with irritable bowel syndrome as most encountered abdominal pain-related functional gastrointestinal disorder. Female gender, psychological disorders, stress and traumatic life events affect prevalence.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / epidemiology*
  • Abdominal Pain / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Grants and funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.