Got gas? Poor mental health may be the reason you’re breaking wind

Survey reveals that nearly 9 in 10 adults battle gas symptoms on a daily basis, with flatulence by far being the most common issue.

VIENNA, Austria — Breaking wind ranks as the most common gas-related stomach issue, according to a new study. However, the cause of all this flatulence may surprise you. Researchers say a poorer quality of life, stress, anxiety, and depression appear to be to blame for several gas-related symptoms.

The study finds more than four in five people (81.3%) name breaking wind as their most common stomach issue. Other gas-related symptoms include stomach rumbling (60.5%), belching (58%), and bad breath (48.1%). The survey of nearly 6,000 people in the United States, United Kingdom, and Mexico finds trapped wind (47.2%), abdominal distension/swollen tummy (39.6%), and bloating/abdominal pressure (38.5%) are also common ailments.

Only 11.1 percent of the poll reported experiencing no gas symptoms at all during the 24-hour period the survey examined. On average, respondents dealt with three different gas issues across the 24-hour window.

Each person, between the ages of 18 and 99, filled out the Intestinal Gas Questionnaires (IGQs) online. They also revealed their body mass index, exercise habits, emotional well-being, and quality of life over the past seven days.

The results show that higher IGQ scores had a connection to lower mental health and quality of life scores, according to answers respondents gave on the PROMIS Global-10 questionnaire. Simply put, more feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression led to more gastrointestinal trouble.

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Researchers add that the IGC scores did not show any connection to each person’s weight or BMI. The scores examining gas problems only showed a small link to how much exercise each respondent participated in.

Scientists from the Rome Foundation Research Institute in the U.S. and Danone Nutricia Research in France also found that younger people between 18 and 34 and 35 and 49 had the highest level of gas-related issues. These individuals had IGQ scores of 24 and 22.6 respectively. Comparatively, adults ages 50 to 64 had an average IGQ score of 12.7, while those 65 and older averaged 8.6.

Gas-related symptom: Total sample
Bloating – abdominal pressure 38.5% [37.3, 39.7] 32.4% [30.4, 34.5] 31.6% [29.6, 33.6] 51.5% [49.3, 53.7]
Abdominal distention 39.6% [38.3, 40.8] 29.6% [27.6, 31.6] 30.9% [28.9, 32.9] 58.3% [56.1, 60.4]
Flatulence 81.3% [80.3, 82.6] 75.9% [74.0, 78.8] 82.7% [81.0, 84.4] 85.2% [83.6, 86.8]
Difficult gas evacuation 47.2% [45.9, 48.5] 39.7% [37.5, 41.8] 37.1% [34.9, 39.2] 64.9% [62.8, 67.0]
Stomach rumbling 60.5% [59.2, 61.7] 51.6% [49.4, 53.8] 57.4% [55.3, 59.6] 72.4% [70.5, 74.4]
Belching 58.0% [56.7, 59.3] 54.6%  [52.4, 56.8] 53.2% [51.0, 55.4] 66.3% [64.2, 68.4]
Bad breath 48.1% [46.8, 49.3] 40.7% [38.5, 42.8] 40.5% [38.3, 42.6] 63.1% [61.0, 65.2]


When comparing countries, respondents in Mexico had significantly higher scores among all seven gas-related issues in the survey. People in the U.S. and U.K. were generally similar, though British IGQ scores were about 6% higher when it came to flatulence and stomach rumbling.

“I think the most remarkable and surprising finding in our study is that almost all adults in the general population experience some daily gas-related symptoms. This is important given the data also clearly reveals that these symptoms affect people’s general wellbeing. Having a high amount of these common intestinal symptoms is associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress, as well as impaired general quality of life,” says lead author Professor Olafur Palsson from the University of North Carolina in a media release.

As for what’s causing the differences across nations, study authors say the exact reason is still unclear. “Cultural, linguistic, diet or public health factors might affect population levels of gas-related symptoms,” Palsson concludes.

Researchers presented their findings at UEG Week Virtual 2021.