Epidemiology of Abdominal Pain

The symptom of abdominal pain is common in the community, with prevalence rates between 22% and 28% (1-3). Women are more likely than men to complain of abdominal pain and bloating. It is noteworthy that only one in five of people in the community with abdominal pain had consulted a physician about their symptoms. In contrast, the majority of respondents complain of impairment in carrying out usual activities due to the pain, with the level of impairment similar between the sexes. This implies that abdominal pain impacts upon the daily lives of a vast number of people in whom no formal diagnosis is made.

The natural history of abdominal pain in the adult population is largely unknown. Abdominal symptoms have been observed to relapse and remit over the course of a year (4). The overall prevalence rate remains constant, but this is accounted for by considerable symptom turnover. The onset rate is about 10% and the disappearance rate is 35%. Prevalence rates are stable because the absolute numbers of people with onset and disappearance are matched.

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