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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Demographic determinants of acute gastrointestinal illness in Canada: a population study

Shannon E Majowicz12, Julie Horrocks3* and Kathryn Bocking3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

2 Foodborne, Waterborne and Zoonotic Infections Division, Public Health Agency of Canada, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

3 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:162  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-162

Published: 18 July 2007



Gastrointestinal illness is an important global public health issue, even in developed countries, where the morbidity and economic impact are significant. Our objective was to evaluate the demographic determinants of acute gastrointestinal illness in Canadians.


We used data from two population-based studies conducted in select communities between 2001 and 2003. Together, the studies comprised 8,108 randomly selected respondents; proxies were used for all respondents under 12 years and for respondents under 19 years at the discretion of the parent or guardian. Using univariate and multivariate logistic regression, we evaluated the following demographic determinants: age, gender, cultural group, and urban/rural status of the respondent, highest education level of the respondent or proxy, number of people in the household, and total annual household income. Two-way interaction terms were included in the multivariate analyses. The final multivariate model included income, age, gender, and the interaction between income and gender.


After adjusting for income, gender, and their interaction, children under 10 years had the highest risk of acute gastrointestinal illness, followed by young adults aged 20 to 24 years. For males, the risk of acute gastrointestinal illness was similar across all income levels, but for females the risk was much higher in the lowest income category. Specifically, in those with total annual household incomes of less than $20,000, the odds of acute gastrointestinal illness were 2.46 times higher in females than in males.


Understanding the demographic determinants of acute gastrointestinal illness is essential in order to identify vulnerable groups to which intervention and prevention efforts can be targeted.