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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Sep 1;24(5):879-86.

Physical and psychological co-morbidity in irritable bowel syndrome: a matched cohort study using the General Practice Research Database.

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Division of Health and Social Care Research, King's College London School of Medicine, London, UK.



Irritable bowel syndrome is a common problem known to have a complex relationship with psychological disorders and other physical symptoms. Little information, however, is available concerning physical and psychological comorbidity in irritable bowel syndrome patients studied over an extended period.


To evaluate physical and psychological morbidity 2 years before and during 6 years after the time of diagnosis in incident cases of irritable bowel syndrome and control subjects.


A matched cohort study was implemented in 123 general practices using the General Practice Research Database. Irritable bowel syndrome cases (n = 1827) and controls (n = 3654) were compared for 2 years before and 6 years after diagnosis.


The age-standardized incidence of irritable bowel syndrome in patients over 15 years of age was 1.9 per 1,000 in men and 5.8 per 1,000 in women. From 2 years before the date of diagnosis, more irritable bowel syndrome cases (13%) than controls (5%) consulted with depression or were prescribed antidepressant drugs. Consultation and prescription rates for anxiety were also higher before diagnosis, and both anxiety and depression remained prevalent up to 6 years after diagnosis. Asthma, symptoms of urinary tract infection, gall-bladder surgery, hysterectomy and diverticular disease were recorded more frequently in irritable bowel syndrome patients, who were also more likely than controls to be referred to hospital.


People who are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome experience more anxiety and depression and a range of physical problems, compared with controls; they are more likely to be referred to hospital.

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