The Increased Level of Depression and Anxiety in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients Compared with Healthy Controls: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017 Jul 30;23(3):349-362. doi: 10.5056/jnm16220.


Background/aims: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients commonly experience psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety. This meta-analysis sought to compare depression and anxiety levels between IBS patients and healthy controls.

Methods: We searched major electronic databases (PubMed, EMBASE, MEDLINE, and Cochrane library) to find comparative studies on IBS patients and healthy controls. The primary outcome was a standardized mean difference (SMD) of anxiety and depression levels; sub-group analyses were conducted according to IBS-subtypes.

Results: In total, 2293 IBS patients and 4951 healthy controls from 27 studies were included. In random effect analysis, depression and anxiety levels were significantly higher in IBS patients (pooled SMD = 0.76; 95% CI, 0.62-0.90; P < 0.001; I2 = 77.2% and pooled SMD = 0.84; 95% CI, 0.67-1.01; P < 0.001; I2 = 85.6%, respectively). Both analyses' funnel plots showed symmetry. In meta-regression analysis, heterogeneity was due to the studied region and questionnaire type for both depression and anxiety. In sub-group analyses of IBS-subtype, the pooled SMDs of depression and anxiety levels (IBS with predominant constipation: 0.83 and 0.81, IBS with predominant diarrhea: 0.73 and 0.65, and IBS with mixed bowel habits: 0.62 and 0.75; P < 0.001, respectively) were significantly higher in all IBS-subtypes.

Conclusions: The present meta-analysis showed depression and anxiety levels to be higher in IBS patients than in healthy controls, regardless of IBS-subtype. However, the gender effect on psychological factors among IBS patients could not be determined and should be evaluated in prospective studies.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Irritable bowel syndrome; Meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Review