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Am J Gastroenterol. 2004 Aug;99(8):1572-8.

The irritable bowel syndrome has origins in the childhood socioeconomic environment.

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  • 1The School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Australia.



The childhood socioeconomic environment has been linked to adult health status in several studies. However, its role in the pathogenesis of adult irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) remains unknown. We aim to assess the influence of the childhood environment on adult IBS, using data from a New Zealand birth cohort study.


The Dunedin birth cohort was assembled in 1972-1973 and has been followed prospectively to age 26 (n = 980). IBS was classified according to both Rome and Manning criteria, using self-reported symptom data obtained at age 26 yr. Childhood social class was used as a proxy measure of the quality of the childhood socioeconomic environment and was assigned according to the highest average socioeconomic (SES) level of either parent from interviews across the first 15 yr of life.


Childhood social class was significantly associated with IBS according to Manning Criteria (p = 0.05) and Rome II Criteria (p = 0.05). The prevailing trend was identical for both measures of IBS in the sex-adjusted models: this trend can be characterized as a general, and near-linear decrease in the odds of IBS across decreasing levels of social class. Contrasts with the reference group were significant on all comparisons for Manning Criteria IBS (high vs upper middle, p = 0.04; lower middle, p = 0.04; low, p = 0.01), and on comparisons involving the two lower social class groups for Rome II Criteria IBS (high vs lower middle, p = 0.03; low, p = 0.03). The associations were attenuated, but not eliminated by further adjustment for adult social class.


An affluent childhood environment is an independent risk factor for adult IBS.

Copyright 2004 American College of Gastroenterology

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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