Background/Aims: A link between abuse and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has been reported in outpatients but remains controversial. No population-based studies have investigated this issue. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of abuse and its association with symptoms in a representative community sample. Methods: An age- and sex-stratified random sample of residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota ranging in age from 30 to 49 years was mailed a valid self-report symptom questionnaire. Abuse was assessed by standard published criteria. Results: Of the 919 responders (74%), the age-adjusted prevalence of any abuse was 41% in women and 11% in men, resulting in an age- and sex-adjusted prevalence of 26%. Symptoms of IBS, dyspepsia, and frequent heartburn were reported by 14%, 23%, and 12%, respectively. There was a significant association between IBS and sexual abuse, emotional or verbal abuse, and abuse in childhood and adulthood. Similarly, dyspepsia and heartburn were both significantly associated with abuse. In the population, 31% had visited a physician for gastrointestinal symptoms; the odds of visiting a physician were highest in those reporting abuse in adulthood and childhood. Conclusions: Self-reported abuse is common in middle-aged subjects; those who report abuse are more likely to have symptoms consistent with IBS, dyspepsia, or heartburn and to visit a physician for bowel symptoms.
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