Background: The aetiology of ulcerative colitis is still unknown. Several theories have been proposed taking into account psychological influences.
Aims: The present study was undertaken to test the hypothesis of a relationship between certain individual psychological patterns, stress, some familial variables, and ulcerative colitis.
Patients: A series of 122 patients with ulcerative colitis and a matched hospital control population were independently studied by a team of physicians and a team of psychologists.
Methods: State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Form Y) and Sacks' sentence completion tests were submitted to all subjects in both populations.
Results: Data showed significantly higher anxiety trait and state in ulcerative colitis patients, whilst 84% of ulcerative colitis patients showed a variety of obsessional traits and an affectivity state characterized by introversion and emotional immaturity. A link was found with regard to relationship with mother, to the condition of single children in the male ulcerative colitis population (41% vs 18% controls), and to last born daughters in the female ulcerative colitis group (47.5% vs 27.9% controls). In addition, a previous stressful life event within the 12-month period prior to the investigation was found in 44.3% of ulcerative colitis patients and in 10.7% of controls.
Conclusions: Psychological disturbances and familial condition are proposed as risk factors, if not actual aetiological variables of ulcerative colitis.