Prevalence of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders in Children and Adolescents in the Mediterranean Region of Europe

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jun;16(6):870-876. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2017.11.005. Epub 2017 Nov 9.


Background & aims: Little is known about the prevalence of functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) in children from the Mediterranean area of Europe. We aimed to assess the prevalence of FGIDs in children and adolescents in this region.

Methods: We collected data on 13,750 children (4-18 years old) enrolled in the Mediterranean-European Area Project, a school-based health study performed in Croatia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Serbia, and Spain. Data were collected from March to June and in September of 2016. We analyzed data from 6602 students 4 to 10 years old (group A; mean age, 7.7 ± 1.9 y), and 7148 subjects 11 to 18 years old (group B; mean age, 13.8 ± 2.1 y). Children with FGIDs were identified based on answers to questionnaires on pediatric gastrointestinal symptoms, selected based on Rome III criteria.

Results: In group A, the prevalence of FGIDs was 20.7%. The most frequent disorders were functional constipation (11.7%), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS, 4%), aerophagia (3.5%), and abdominal migraine (3.1%). The prevalence of abdominal migraine was significantly higher in girls than in boys (P = .007). In group B, the overall prevalence of FGIDs was 26.6%. The most frequent disorders were functional constipation (13.1%), abdominal migraine (7.8%), aerophagia (6.3%), and IBS (5.6%). In group B, FGIDs had a higher prevalence among girls than boys (P < .001). In both groups, we found significant differences in the prevalence of specific disorders among specific countries.

Conclusions: In an analysis of data on children 4 to 18 years old from the Mediterranean-European Area Project, we found FGIDs to be more frequent in girls. Functional constipation, aerophagia, abdominal migraine, and IBS are the most common disorders. However, the prevalence of FGIDs varies significantly among countries.

Keywords: Abdominal Pain; Epidemiology; MEAP; Survey.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mediterranean Region / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors