Objectives: To determine the prevalence of dyspepsia in the adult population of Great Britain and to describe the clinical features, treatment, effect of dyspepsia on daily lives and perceptions of peptic ulcer disease.
Design: Cross-sectional survey of the adult population using structured questionnaires.
Setting: Subjects interviewed at more than 150 sampling points in England, Scotland and Wales in November 1994.
Subjects: A representative sample of the adult population comprising 2112 subjects, aged 16 years or more.
Main outcome measures: The prevalence of dyspepsia in the adult population and the frequency of various characteristics in dyspeptic subjects.
Results: The prevalence of dyspepsia was 40%. Upper abdominal pain and heartburn were the most frequently reported symptoms. Solitary symptoms were uncommon and there was frequent overlap between 'ulcer-like' and 'reflux-like' dyspepsia. Forty-six per cent of dyspeptic subjects reported moderate or severe symptoms. More than half of symptomatic subjects took medication and 22% had visited their GP during the previous year. Overall, 2% of the survey sample had been absent from work due to dyspepsia. Awareness of the factors precipitating or aggravating peptic ulcer disease was poor, particularly in relation to anti-inflammatory drugs.
Conclusions: The present study emphasizes the magnitude of the problem of dyspepsia in the adult population of Great Britain. The survey also shows that the public in general, and patients in particular, require more information if they are to avoid factors known to damage the upper alimentary tract.