Epidemiology of abdominal symptoms in a random population: prevalence, incidence, and natural history

Eur J Epidemiol. 1994 Oct;10(5):559-66. doi: 10.1007/BF01719573.


The study presents results from a five-year follow-up on abdominal symptoms in an age and sex stratified random sample of 4,581 Danes. Abdominal pain occurred significantly more often among women (prevalence: 49%, incidence: 21%) compared to mean (prevalence: 38%, incidence: 15%). Five years later the pain had disappeared in 43% of the men and 31% of the women (p = 0.003). Distension, borborygmi, and altering consistency of stools occurred with a prevalence of approximately 50% and an incidence of approximately 30%, significantly more often among women compared to men. Five years later these symptoms had disappeared in about 20%. Prevalence of both heartburn and acid regurgitation were significantly higher among men (38%) than women (30%), whereas no sex difference was observed regarding incidence of these symptoms (16%). Approximately 30% of subjects who had experienced heartburn or acid regurgitation did not do so five years later. In conclusion, abdominal symptoms occur frequently and recurrently in the general population. This information is of importance to doctors when they evaluate patients with abdominal complaints, but no obvious organic etiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / epidemiology*
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / epidemiology*
  • Heartburn / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Random Allocation
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires