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How Common Is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder, leading to $1.6 billion per year in health-related spending in the U.S.1 There is varying data for the prevalence of IBS. Studies show that the prevalence of IBS may range from 10% to 25%.2,3 IBS tends to be under-diagnosed, because people with symptoms of IBS may not seek medical attention and may not be properly diagnosed. People may not seek medical attention, because there is a significant stigma associated with receiving a diagnosis of IBS. It has been reported that only 30% of people with symptoms of IBS, mainly IBS with diarrhea, will consult with a physician.2

Prevalence of IBS by Gender, Age, Socioeconomic Status, and Genetics

IBS is more commonly diagnosed in women than in men.2,3 Prevalence rates in women are approximately 1.5- to 3-fold higher than those in men.2 The highest prevalence of IBS was seen in working women.3

About half of the people with IBS reported experiencing their initial symptoms before the age of 35 years.2 However, IBS may occur at any age.2,3 The peak ages for IBS symptoms were between 25 and 54 years.2,3

Studies show that IBS may be diagnosed in people with varying socioeconomic status. However, a higher prevalence of IBS is also found in people working in professional and managerial roles, possibly due to the higher level of perceived stress or the greater access to health care.2

For people with a biological relative with IBS, the risk for developing IBS is twice as high.2

Symptoms and Statistics

Most people with IBS experience symptoms, including abdominal pain/discomfort, for an average of 8.1 days/month.3

One year after initial diagnosis, approximately 30% to 45% of patients will have prolonged periods that are symptom free. However, after 10 years, approximately 50% to 70% of patients report persistent symptoms. For people who are symptom free, 45% will subsequently experience other functional gastrointestinal symptoms, such as indigestion.2

Impact of IBS on Quality of life

People with IBS had approximately two times as many days off work compared to the general population. In addition, they experienced more days in bed or felt less productive at work because of their symptoms. Approximately two-thirds of people with IBS reduced their activity level compared to healthy individuals.2

More IBS sufferers compared to the general population found it difficult to make new friends, have physical relationships, and symptoms that affected family relationships.3

IBS and Mortality

Compared to the general population, there has been no increase in mortality in people with IBS.2

Written by: Truc Thanh | Last reviewed: June 2016.
  1. Sayuk GS, Gyawali CP. Irritable bowel syndrome: modern concepts and management options. Am J Med. 2015;128:817-27.
  2. Canavan C, West J, Card T. The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clin Epidemiol. 2014;6:71-80.
  3. Hungin AP, Chang L, Locke GR, Dennis EH, Barghout V. Irritable bowel syndrome in the United States: prevalence, symptom patterns and impact. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005;21: