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Relationship between upper gastrointestinal symptoms and lifestyle, psychosocial factors and comorbidity in the general population: results from the Domestic/International Gastroenterology Surveillance Study (DIGEST).

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Department of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology, University of Bologna, Italy.



The Domestic/International Gastroenterology Surveillance Study (DIGEST) investigated the prevalence and economic/quality-of-life impact of upper gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms over 3 months among the general population of seven international sites (n = 5581).


Respondents were classified as having relevant or non-relevant symptoms, and were further classified as having gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)-, ulcer-, or dysmotility-like symptoms, based on their most bothersome symptom. Associations were investigated between the prevalence of relevant upper GI symptoms and these subtypes, and the following potential risk factors: psychosocial variables (income, educational level, marital status, having children, occupation, any significant life event during previous year); lifestyle variables (tobacco use, levels of alcohol and caffeine consumption); comorbidity variables (illnesses or symptoms experienced in the previous 3 months, concurrent conditions diagnosed by a doctor, prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) medications taken in the previous 3 months for health problems other than upper GI symptoms).


The most notable risk factors for the occurrence of upper GI symptoms, including symptoms indicative of GORD, were found to be various indicators of psychological stress (particularly recent life events) and psychiatric disease. A wide range of other non-psychiatric illnesses and their treatments was also clearly associated with the occurrence of upper GI symptoms, consistent with these symptoms occurring in many organic illnesses or as adverse effects of their treatments. Smoking was also found to be associated with GORD-like symptoms.

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