GOTHENBURG, Sweden — Everyone will eventually deal with an upset stomach at some point in their lives. For some, those troubles don’t go away fast and can affect their quality of life. A new study has revealed gastrointestinal disorders are more common than you might think: nearly half of all adults worldwide are living with one.
According to the research, published in the journal Gastroenterology, four in 10 adults across the globe battle some type gastrointestinal disorder. Over 73,000 people in 33 countries were surveyed about their stomach issues. Nearly half of the women questioned were found to have at least one functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID).
“It’s striking how similar the findings are between countries. We can see some variations but, in general, these disorders are equally common whatever the country or continent,” says co-author Magnus Simrén from the University of Gothenburg in a statement.
Stomach Trouble Stigma?
Simrén and the researchers in Sweden add that patients responding to web-based surveys had a much higher rate of FGIDs compared to people taking in-person interviews.
“We don’t know why we’re seeing this difference, but one reason might be that people think it’s embarrassing to talk about stomach and bowel symptoms to someone sitting in front of them,” Simrén theorizes.
Twenty-four countries, including the United States, conducted the study through a web-based survey. Only seven countries, including India and Indonesia, used in-person interviews to gather the data.
A Wide Range Of Discomfort
FGIDs can strike in many different places throughout the gastrointestinal tract. In the esophagus and stomach, patients can suffer through heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion. In the intestines, constipation, bloating, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause chronic discomfort.
Researchers note that respondents had a large variety of these disorders, varying from mild pain to FGIDs that had a severe impact on the patient’s daily life. The study reveals that adults with a FGID had to go to the doctor or take medication more often than adults without stomach issues. FGID patients were also more likely to undergo surgery.
The study adds that this trend of more adults living with FGIDs is also putting a growing strain on global healthcare systems. Researchers say more testing is needed to find treatments for these illnesses, which are found in adults in every corner of the globe.