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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 29;8(7):e69876. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069876. Print 2013.

Gastrointestinal symptoms are still prevalent and negatively impact health-related quality of life: a large cross-sectional population based study in The Netherlands.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



Over the last decades important risk factors for gastrointestinal symptoms have shifted, which may have changed its population prevalence. The aim of this study was to assess the current prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms, appraise associated factors and assess health-related quality of life in the general population.


A total of 51,869 questionnaires were sent to a representative sample of the Dutch adult general population in December 2008. Demographic characteristics, gastrointestinal symptoms, health-related quality of life, medication use and co-morbidity were reported. We used multivariable logistic regression analysis to determine factors associated with gastrointestinal symptoms.


A total of 18,317 questionnaires were returned, and 16,758 were eligible for analysis. Prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms was 26%. Most frequent symptoms were bloating (63%), borborygmi (60%) and flatulence (71%). Female gender (adjusted OR (aOR) 1.59, 95% CI 1.43-1.77), asthma/COPD (aOR 1.47, 95% CI 1.21-1.79), use of paracetamol (aOR 1.33, 95% CI 1.20-1.47), antidepressants (aOR 1.56, 95% CI 1.22-2.00) and acid-suppressive medication were independently associated with presence of gastrointestinal symptoms. Age over 65 years (aOR 0.75, 95% CI 0.65-0.87), and use of statins (aOR 0.75, 95% CI 0.61-0.93) were associated with a lower prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms. Respondents with gastrointestinal symptoms had a lower mean health-related quality of life of 0.81 (SD = 0.21) compared to 0.92 (SD = 0.14) for persons without gastrointestinal symptoms (P<0.01).


Prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in the Dutch community is high and associated with decreased health-related quality of life.

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