Digestive Disease Week

Digestive Disease Week

June 25, 2018
2 min read

Stressful events in adulthood linked to increased risk for IBS

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact customerservice@slackinc.com.

WASHINGTON — Patients with more perceived stressful life events in adulthood are more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week.

Colleen H. Parker, MD, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and colleagues said previous studies linked stress to IBS, but most research has been focused on life events that occur before the patient turns age 18 years.

“In a study conducted by our group, it was demonstrated that the presence of early-life trauma or early-life adversity was associated with IBS and worse IBS symptoms severity in those patients,” Parker said during her presentation. “But early-life adversity or trauma is only part of the story of patients with IBS. What about those life events or stressors that happened in adulthood?”

Parker and colleagues compared 129 patients diagnosed with IBS and 108 healthy controls. Each patient responded to a “life experiences survey” that included 60 potential life events that occurred since age 18 years. The patients scored each question on a scale of –3 to +3 to determine the impact each event had on their lives.

Investigators recorded scoring based on the number of negative events, negative event impact scoring (the sum of negatively scored events) and total impact score (sum of positively and negatively scored events). They also collected IBS symptom severity and quality of life measurements.

Parker and colleagues found that patients with IBS had a higher average number of negatively perceived life events (P = .067), higher negative impact score (P = .022) and a more negative total event impact score (P < .001) compared with the health controls.

Additionally, the three scores derived from the life experiences survey were associated with worse IBS severity (P = .059 for number of negative events; P = .025 for impact of negative events; and P = .02 for sum of positive and negative events), as well as worse quality of life scores (all P < .001).

Conversely, Parker and colleagues found that positive life events appeared to mitigate the effects of IBS.

“This chronic stress state likely contributes to alterations to the brain-gut axis that ultimately lead to the symptoms in IBS,” Parker said. “I think it’s important to understand the role of these life events in our patients with IBS, as this will help us develop individualized management plans for these patients that specifically target both the impact and the interpretation of past and future stressful life events.” – by Alex Young


Parker CH, et al. Abstract 454. Presented at: Digestive Disease Week; June 2-5, 2018; Washington, D.C.

Disclosures: Parker reports financial ties to Allergan. Please see the DDW faculty disclosure index for a list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.