Predictors of health care seeking for irritable bowel syndrome: A population based study

N. J. Talley*, P. M. Boyce, M. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

223 Citations (Scopus)


Background - It has been suggested that psychological factors rather than symptoms drive subjects with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to seek medical cares but this issue has not been tackled in a population based study. Aim - To identify whether psychological factors or abuse explain health care seeking for IBS. Methods - A sample of residents of Penrith (a Sydney suburb representative of the Australian population) selected randomly from the electoral rolls (that by law include the entire population ≤18 years) was mailed a validated self-report questionnaire. Measured were gastrointestinal symptoms including the Manning (and Rome) criteria for IBS, health care seeking, neuroticism (Eysenck Personality Questionnaire), psychological morbidity (General Health Questionnaire: GHQ) and sexual, physical and emotional abuse (including the standardised Drossman questions). Results - Among 730 subjects, 96 (13%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 11-16%) had lBS by the Manning criteria. Of those with IBS, 73% (95% CI 63-81%) had sought medical care for abdominal pain or discomfort. Only increasing pain severity (odds ratio (OR) = 2.10, 95% CI 1.11-3.95) and duration of pain (OR=1.53, 95% CI 1.10-2.13) were independently associated with seeking health care for IBS. Pain severity was also predictive of recent care seeking (OR=1.74, 95% CI 1.12-1.96). Neuroticism, psychological morbidity and abuse history were not significant predictors. Conclusion - Psychological factors do not seem to explain health care seeking among community subjects with IBS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-398
Number of pages5
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Abuse
  • Epidemiology
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Neuroticism


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