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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2009 Apr;37(4):737-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2008.04.016. Epub 2008 Sep 11.

A review of the literature on gender and age differences in the prevalence and characteristics of constipation in North America.

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1
Department of Physiological Nursing, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. lindsaymccrea@sbcglobal.net

Abstract

Constipation is a common problem and affects between 2% and 28% of the general population. It is thought to affect more women than men. The severity of constipation is variable and it can be an acute or chronic condition. Often, it requires frequent interventions that may produce mixed or even unsatisfactory results. Knowledge of potentially gender- and age-related differences in constipation would be useful to clinicians to help them identify high-risk patients. In addition, researchers might use this information to design both descriptive and intervention studies. This article reviews the evidence from the studies on gender and age differences in prevalence of constipation, gender differences in the prevalence and characteristics of constipation, and age differences in the prevalence and characteristics of constipation. The available literature suggests that the prevalence of constipation is consistently higher in women than in men. However, evidence of gender differences in the characteristics of constipation is inconsistent. Prevalence rates appear to increase gradually after the age of 50 years, with the largest increase after the age of 70 years. The literature is both sparse and inconsistent in its description of age differences in the characteristics of constipation. This lack of research is a significant issue given the magnitude of this problem in the older adult population. Research is needed on gender and age differences in the symptoms of constipation, and how covariates impact the prevalence and severity of constipation in the elderly.

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