Original Article

Racial Differences in General Health, Suicidal Thoughts, Physical and Sexual Abuse in African-Americans and Caucasians with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Authors: Anil Minocha, MD, Deepthi Bollineni, MD, William D. Johnson, PhD, William Chad Wigington, MD


Objectives: Knowledge of the contribution of race to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) -associated morbidity helps not only with health care policy decisions but also may provide important clues to the pathophysiologic interactions involved.

Methods: We conducted a survey at 9 different sites in our metro area. Subjects filled a questionnaire which included Rome II criteria for IBS. Subjects were asked about demographic and clinical characteristics. Subjects with a prior history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal cancer were excluded.

Results: Nine hundred and ninety subjects (670 African-Americans and 320 Caucasians) were included in the final analysis. IBS patients had more food allergies and were more likely perceived to have poor health as well as physical limitations. A reduced logistic regression model demonstrated that travel abroad, upper respiratory infections, tonsillectomy, and loss of appetite were independently associated with race in the IBS patients. There were no racial differences in physical or sexual abuse, loss of interest in life, or suicidal thoughts.

Conclusions: Substantial similarities as well as differences in IBS patients of the two races support the concept that, while there is an important role for a biological component to the pathogenesis of IBS, it by itself may not be an exclusive determinant.

Key Points

* Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients have more food allergies, greater degrees of prior physical and sexual abuse, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression.

* There are race based similarities as well distinct differences amongst patients with IBS.

* Caucasians have a greater prevalence of drug allergies, travelers' diarrhea, and tonsillectomy, regard themselves to be in poorer health, and are more likely to see a physician than African-Americans.

* There are no race based differences in physical or sexual abuse, loss of interest in life, or suicidal thought.

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