Impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic on irritable bowel syndrome

Sabrina Xin Zi Quek, Evelyn Xiu Ling Loo, Alla Demutska, Chun En Chua, Guan Sen Kew, Scott Wong, Hui Xing Lau, En Xian Sarah Low, Tze Liang Loh, Ooi Shien Lung, Emily C.W. Hung, M. Masudur Rahman, Uday C. Ghoshal, Sunny H. Wong, Cynthia K.Y. Cheung, Ari F. Syam, Niandi Tan, Yinglian Xiao, Jin Song Liu, Fang LuChien Lin Chen, Yeong Yeh Lee, Ruter M. Maralit, Yong Sung Kim, Tadayuki Oshima, Hiroto Miwa, Junxiong Pang, Kewin Tien Ho Siah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aim: Gastrointestinal manifestations of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may mimic irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and social distancing measures may affect IBS patients negatively. We aimed to study the impact of COVID-19 on respondents with self-reported IBS. Methods: We conducted an anonymized survey from May to June 2020 in 33 countries. Knowledge, attitudes, and practices on personal hygiene and social distancing as well as psychological impact of COVID-19 were assessed. Statistical analysis was performed to determine differences in well-being and compliance to social distancing measures between respondents with and without self-reported IBS. Factors associated with improvement or worsening of IBS symptoms were evaluated. Results: Out of 2704 respondents, 2024 (74.9%) did not have IBS, 305 (11.3%) had self-reported IBS, and 374 (13.8%) did not know what IBS was. Self-reported IBS respondents reported significantly worse emotional, social, and psychological well-being compared with non-IBS respondents and were less compliant to social distancing measures (28.2% vs 35.3%, P = 0.029); 61.6% reported no change, 26.6% reported improvement, and 11.8% reported worsening IBS symptoms. Higher proportion of respondents with no change in IBS symptoms were willing to practice social distancing indefinitely versus those who deteriorated (74.9% vs 51.4%, P = 0.016). In multivariate analysis, willingness to continue social distancing for another 2–3 weeks (vs longer period) was significantly associated with higher odds of worsening IBS. Conclusion: Our study showed that self-reported IBS respondents had worse well-being and compliance to social distancing measures than non-IBS respondents. Future research will focus on occupational stress and dietary changes during COVID-19 that may influence IBS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2187-2197
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Australia)
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • COVID-19
  • IBS
  • Social distancing


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