Review article: the incidence and risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome in population-based studies

Creed F1. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2019 Jul 17. doi: 10.1111/apt.15396. [Epub ahead of print]


Author information

Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


BACKGROUND: In the absence of prior gastrointestinal infection, the risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are not well established.

AIM: To identify the incidence and risk factors for IBS in general population samples METHODS: Narrative review of population-based studies. Electronic databases were searched using the keywords "incidence," "onset," "epidemiology," "population," "risk factors" with "irritable bowel syndrome" with subsequent hand searching. Inclusion criteria were: population-based, adults, prospective design (including retrospective case cohorts), clinical or research diagnosis of IBS and exclusion of individuals who had IBS prior to recruitment.

RESULTS: Of 1963 papers, 38 were included; all provided data on risk factors, 27 reported incidence. The median incidence of physician-diagnosed IBS in 19 general population cohorts was 38.5 per 10 000 person-years (interquartile range = 20-45.3). In 14 cohorts with specific medical disorders, median incidence was 92 per 10 000 person-years (IQR: 73.9-119). Apart from gastroenteritis, the most common risk factors were other medical disorders, female sex, age (both young and old), anxiety and depression, life events/stress, frequent healthcare use, pain and sleep disorders. The results were conflicting for alcohol consumption, smoking and BMI. Incidence rates were similar in different countries but risk factors differed.

CONCLUSIONS: Incidence rates were generally lower than previous estimates reflecting physician-diagnosed IBS. The results highlight the importance of other medical and psychosocial problems in the onset of IBS in addition to prior gastrointestinal infections. Aetiological research could be enhanced by studying the underlying mechanisms relating to all of these risk factors.

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