Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Epidemiology of constipation in Europe and Oceania: a systematic review

George Peppas1, Vangelis G Alexiou1, Eleni Mourtzoukou1 and Matthew E Falagas12*

Author Affiliations

1 Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences (AIBS), Athens, Greece

2 Department of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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BMC Gastroenterology 2008, 8:5  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-8-5

Published: 12 February 2008

Abstract

Background

We aimed to review the literature regarding the epidemiology of constipation in Europe and Oceania and the associated prevalence/risk factors.

Methods

Two reviewers performed PubMed searches and a hand search of references. A study was considered eligible for inclusion if it reported data about the prevalence of constipation in any population, free of other gastrointestinal disorders, in Europe and Oceania. Studies were evaluated for quality. Data regarding the setting, type of study, definition of constipation, study population, prevalence of constipation, factors associated with increased odds for constipation, and the female to male ratio, were collected.

Results

The 21 reviewed studies depict prevalence rates in 34 different population groups ranging widely from a low 0.7% to a high 81%. In the general population of Europe the mean value of the reported constipation rates is 17,1 % and the median value 16.6%. Among the studies conducted in Oceania, the mean value of constipation prevalence was 15.3%. Female gender, age and socioeconomic and educational class seem to have major effect on constipation prevalence. A number of various other risk factors are, less clearly, associated with constipation.

Conclusion

This systematic review depicts the high prevalence and related risk factors of a disorder that decreases the health-related quality of life and has major economic consequences.