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Psychological Stress and Self-Reported Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

Suarez, Kerstin PhD; Mayer, Claudia MSc; Ehlert, Ulrike PhD; Nater, Urs M. PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: March 2010 - Volume 198 - Issue 3 - p 226-229
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181d106bc
Brief Reports

Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID) are common, but despite their relevance in public health care, the etiology of FGID remains essentially unknown. Stress has been suggested as a pathophysiological factor in FGID. The aims of the present study were (a) to determine the prevalence of FGID in a sample of apparently healthy students, and (b) to determine the association of stress and FGID. The prevalence rates of 21 different FGID were assessed using an internet-based design. Subjective experience of chronic stress, individual coping strategies, and dispositional stress reactivity were measured. A total of 668 subjects provided complete data sets (66% women). About 64.2% reported at least one FGID. Symptoms of FGID were significantly predicted by increased levels of perceived chronic stress, dispositional stress reactivity, and use of maladaptive coping strategies. FGID are common in apparently healthy young individuals. The importance of stress-related factors in individuals suffering from FGID indicates that stress-reducing interventions may be beneficial in these patients.

Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Institute of Psychology, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.

Send reprint requests to Urs M. Nater, PhD, University of Zurich, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Binzmuehlestr. 14/Box 26, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.