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Social environment influence IBS patients’ health perceptions

The latest issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology evaluates the impact of physical complaints, social environment, and psychological functioning on IBS patients’ health perceptions.

News image

In the absence of a reliable biomarker, clinical decisions for a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) depend on asking patients to appraise and communicate their health status.

Self-ratings of health (SRH) have proven a powerful and consistent predictor of health outcomes, but little is known about how they relate to those relevant to IBS.

Dr Jeffrey Lackner and colleagues from New York, USA examined what psychosocial factors, if any, predict self-ratings of health among a cohort of more severe IBS patients.

Subjects included 234 Rome III-positive IBS patients without comorbid organic GI disease.

IBS symptom severity was weakly associated with self-ratings of health
American Journal of Gastroenterology

Subjects were administered a test battery that included the IBS Symptom Severity Scale, Screening for Somatoform Symptoms, IBS Medical Comorbidity Inventory, SF-12 Vitality Scale, Perceived Stress Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Negative Interactions Scale.

The team found that somatization, depression, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and medical comorbidities were variables with the strongest correlations with self-ratings of health.

The researchers observed that IBS symptom severity was weakly associated with self-ratings of health.

The final regression model explained 41% of the variance in self-ratings of health scores with significant predictors including fatigue, medical comorbidities, somatization, and negative social interactions.

Dr Lackner's team comments, "Self-ratings of health are associated with psychological (anxiety, stress, depression), social (negative interactions), and extraintestinal somatic factors (fatigue, somatization, medical comorbidities)."

"The severity of IBS symptoms appears to have a relatively modest role in how IBS patients describe their health in general."

Am J Gastroenterol 2014; 109:224–233
27 February 2014

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