Constipation in an elderly community: a study of prevalence and potential risk factors

Am J Gastroenterol. 1996 Jan;91(1):19-25.


Objective: The epidemiology of chronic constipation in the elderly remains poorly defined. We aimed to study the prevalence of, and potential risk factors for, constipation in a representative elderly community, using symptom-based diagnostic criteria.

Methods: An age and gender-stratified random sample of 1833 eligible residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota, aged 65 yr and over, was mailed a valid self-report questionnaire; 1375 responded (75%).

Results: The overall age- and gender-adjusted prevalence (per 100) of any constipation was 40.1 (95% CI 38.9, 44.4); for functional constipation and outlet difficulty or delay, the prevalence rates were 24.4 (95% CI 22.0-26.9) and 20.5 (95% CI 18.2-22.8), respectively. Self-reported constipation did not reliably identify functional constipation or outlet delay. Outlet delay, but not functional constipation, was more frequent in women; functional constipation, but not outlet delay, was associated with advancing age. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications were significant risk factors in subjects with functional constipation and outlet delay combined.

Conclusions: In independently living, elderly persons, constipation is a common complaint; among these subjects, there appear to be symptom subgroups that can be identified.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Constipation / diagnosis
  • Constipation / epidemiology*
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Random Allocation
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires