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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Migraine, fibromyalgia, and depression among people with IBS: a prevalence study

J Alexander Cole12*, Kenneth J Rothman13, Howard J Cabral4, Yuqing Zhang5 and Francis A Farraye6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston MA, USA

2 i3 Drug Safety, Auburndale, MA, USA

3 Divsion of Preventive Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston MA, USA

4 Department of Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston MA, USA

5 Clinical Epidemiology Research and Training Unit, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston MA, USA

6 Section of Gastroenterology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston MA, USA

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BMC Gastroenterology 2006, 6:26  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-6-26

Published: 28 September 2006



Case descriptions suggest IBS patients are more likely to have other disorders, including migraine, fibromyalgia, and depression. We sought to examine the prevalence of these conditions in cohorts of people with and without IBS.


The source of data was a large U.S. health plan from January 1, 1996 though June 30, 2002. We identified all people with a medical claim associated with an ICD-9 code for IBS. A non-IBS cohort was a random sample of people with an ICD-9 code for routine medical care. In the cohorts, we identified all claims for migraine, depression, and fibromyalgia. We estimated the prevalence odds ratios (PORs) of each of the three conditions using the Mantel-Haenszel method. We conducted quantitative sensitivity analyses to quantify the impact of residual confounding and in differential outcome identification.


We identified 97,593 people in the IBS cohort, and a random sample of 27,402 people to compose the non-IBS comparison cohort. With adjustment, there was a 60% higher odds in the IBS cohort of having any one of the three disorders relative to the comparison cohort (POR 1.6, 95% CI 1.5 – 1.7). There was a 40% higher odds of depression in the IBS cohort (POR 1.4, 95% CI 1.3 – 1.4). The PORs for fibromyalgia and migraine were similar (POR for fibromyalgia 1.8, 95% CI 1.7 – 1.9; POR for migraine 1.6, 95% CI 1.4 – 1.7). Differential prevalence of an unmeasured confounder, or imperfect sensitivity or specificity of outcome detection would have impacted the observed results.


People in the IBS cohort had a 40% to 80% higher prevalence odds of migraine, fibromyalgia, and depression.