Familial and psychological risk factors of ulcerative colitis

Ital J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1997 Oct;29(5):395-8.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / etiology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Personality
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications