Objective: Data on the epidemiology of chronic gastrointestinal symptoms in the East are limited. The aims of this study were to estimate the prevalence of chronic gastrointestinal symptoms in Singapore and to determine whether ethnic differences in the prevalence of these symptoms exist.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey, using a reliable and valid questionnaire, was carried out in a race-stratified random sample of residents aged 21-95 yr (mean+/-SD, 40+/-1 yr) in a Singaporean town; 93% responded (n=696).
Results: The ethnic-adjusted prevalence of chronic abdominal pain, frequent dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea, and frequent reflux were 5.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.3-8.1), 7.9% (95% CI, 5.0-10.8), 2.3% (95% CI, 0.8-3.9), 3.9% (95% CI, 1.9-5.9), 4.5% (95% CI, 2.3-6.7), and 1.6% (95% CI, 0.6-2.6), respectively. There were no ethnic differences in the prevalence of any of these symptom categories except for reflux-type symptoms, which were more common among Indians (7.5%; 95% CI, 4.4-11.7) than Chinese (0.8%; 95% CI, 0.1-3.0) or Malays (3.0%; 95% CI, 1.26.1).
Conclusion: The prevalence of all types of chronic gastrointestinal symptoms in the general population of Singapore was low compared with those in the West. Chronic gastrointestinal symptoms were equally prevalent in the three major ethnic groups except for reflux-type symptoms, which were more common among Indians than Chinese or Malays.