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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Sep 15;30(6):643-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2009.04074.x. Epub 2009 Jun 23.

Irritable bowel syndrome is strongly associated with generalized anxiety disorder: a community study.

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Department of Psychiatry, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.



No previous study has examined the comorbidity of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in a general population using standardized diagnostic methods.


To examine the prevalence, comorbidity and risk correlates of IBS and GAD in a general population.


A random community-based telephone survey was conducted. The questionnaire covered symptoms of IBS, GAD, core depressive symptoms, help-seeking behaviour and functional impairment on the Sheehan Disability Scale.


A total of 2005 participants completed the interview. The current prevalence of IBS was 5.4% and the 12-month prevalence of GAD was 4%. GAD was five times more common among IBS respondents than non-IBS respondents (OR: 5.84, P < 0.001), whereas IBS was 4.7 times more common among GAD respondents than among non-GAD respondents (OR: 6.32, P < 0.001). Core depressive symptoms (OR: 6.25, P < 0.01) and education level (OR: 5.918, P = 0.021) were risk correlates of GAD among IBS respondents. Comorbid respondents were more impaired than respondents having either disorder alone, but were not more likely to seek professional help than IBS-only respondents.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome and GAD comorbidity was common and added to impairment in the community. The strong association between psychiatric morbidity and IBS observed in referral centres was not a consequence of increased help-seeking behaviour.

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