Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Epidemiology of constipation (one in seven)

Now for something different. Have you ever wondered just how common constipation really was? Probably not. It takes an epidemiologist to wonder about things like that. The Oxford scientists over at Bandolier took up this non-urgent question recently in "strangers to the lavatory" (yes, really the subtitle of their post on the prevalence of constipation).

Constipation is common. Meaning what? Since this is a family blog (of course it would have to be a very dysfunctional family) I'll forego the definitions. They are not appetizing. After reviewing ten reports published between 1964 and 2000, the curious folks at Bandolier concluded the overall prevalence (proportion of adults with constipation at a particular time) was about 15%, or one in seven. Women were about twice as likely to be constipated as men. Prevalence is lower with higher education and income, probably a diet factor. The older you are the more likely you are to be constipated.

It is a sobering thought that when you get on a bus or subway car with fifty people on it, on average seven of them will be constipated.