Study: 4 in 10 Adults Report Symptoms Associated With Functional GI Disorders


Recent research offers insight into the global prevalence of gastrointestinal disorders.


Four in ten adults worldwide reported symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders of varying severity, including symptoms such as heartburn, acid reflux, and indigestion (dyspepsia), according to research published in Gastroenterology.

The study included more than 73,000 individuals across 33 countries and provides an overall picture of the global prevalence of GI disorders. The investigators collected data from web-based questionnaires and face-to-face interviews. Questions pertained to the diagnostic criteria of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional GI disorders, but also focused on particulars of other diseases and symptoms, living conditions, quality of life, and health care consumption.

According to the findings, the prevalence of functional GI disorders was higher among women in the study than in men, and was clearly associated with a lower quality of life. Forty-nine percent of women and 37% of men met the diagnostic criteria for at least 1 functional GI disorder.

Severity of GI disorders ranged from mild discomfort to symptoms that adversely affect quality of life to a high degree, according to the study. Additionally, the prevalence of functional GI disorders was strongly associated with high consumption of health care, such as medical visits and use of medication, as well as surgery.

The web-based questionnaires were used in most countries; however, in some countries, respondents were asked to reply to questions when an interview them aloud. In 2 countries, when both methods were used, interviewees reported fewer symptoms when questioned face-to-face, according to the investigators.

According to the investigators, the study findings represent “the first report documenting the global prevalence of [functional GI disorders] assessed with a uniform diagnostic questionnaire and research methodology.” They indicated that the results may influence future planning of health care resources and further clinical trials. 


1. Sperber AD, Bangdiwala SI, Drossman DA, et ak. Worldwide prevalence and burden of functional gastrointestinal disorders, results of Rome Foundation Global Study. Gastroenterology. 2020.

2. Four of ten adults worldwide have functional gastrointestinal disorders. News release. University of Gothenburg; May 27, 2020. Accessed November 16, 2020.

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