Gender differences in irritable bowel syndrome: The interpersonal connection

E. R. Thakur, M. B. Gurtman, L. Keefer, D. M. Brenner, J. M. Lackner, Rebecca Firth, Gregory Gudleski, Jim Jaccard, Leonard Katz, Susan Krasner, Christopher Radziwon, Michael Sitrin, Ann Marie Carosella, Representing The IBS Outcome Study Research Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: While irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects women more than men, the reasons are unclear. Research on the female preponderance of IBS has focused on gender differences in sex-linked biological processes; much less attention has been paid to the role of psychosocial factors. Interpersonal difficulties may be one source of stress that may significantly impact on women with IBS. Because of the importance that women attach to relationships, we suspected they would be more reactive to interpersonal stress. Methods: A total of 283 (M age = 41 years, F = 80%), Rome III-diagnosed IBS patients completed a test battery that included the IBS Symptom Severity Scale, McGill Pain Questionnaire, Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (IIP), interpersonal support evaluation list (social support), Negative Interactions Scale, Brief Symptom Inventory (distress), Beck Depression Inventory, Anxiety Sensitivity Inventory, and IBS-Quality of Life as part of baseline assessment of an NIH trial. Key Results: Males scored higher on two IIP scales reflecting a hostile-dominant interpersonal pattern, and reported less social support. The quality of relationship problems (more interpersonal difficulties, lower support) correlated with IBS symptom severity as measured mainly by gastroenterologists. Conclusions & Inferences: Male, not female, IBS patients reported more interpersonal difficulties. Male patients-a population for whom little is known-are characterized by hostile-dominant interpersonal problems. This finding has clinical importance, given that relationship problems may influence MDs' estimation of IBS symptom severity and undermine the physician-patient relationship. IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder affecting women more often than men. Research on the female preponderance of IBS has focused on gender differences in sex-linked biological or psychological processes; much less attention has been paid to the role of social factors, such as the quality of interpersonal relationships. Male, not female, IBS patients reported more interpersonal difficulties (i.e., less support from others and more interpersonal problems involving hostile-dominant behaviors).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1478-1486
Number of pages9
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Volume27
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Keywords

  • Circumplex
  • Gender
  • Interpersonal stress
  • Physician-patient relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Gastroenterology

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  • Cite this

    Thakur, E. R., Gurtman, M. B., Keefer, L., Brenner, D. M., Lackner, J. M., Firth, R., Gudleski, G., Jaccard, J., Katz, L., Krasner, S., Radziwon, C., Sitrin, M., Carosella, A. M., & Representing The IBS Outcome Study Research Group (2015). Gender differences in irritable bowel syndrome: The interpersonal connection. Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 27(10), 1478-1486. https://doi.org/10.1111/nmo.12647