FEB 22, 2023 12:15 PM PST

IBS Linked to Increased Incidence of Depression, Anxiety, Suicidal Ideation

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

 Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be linked to mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. The corresponding study was published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science

IBS is a chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal tract that affects up to 15% of the population. Symptoms include cramping, bloating, and abdominal pain. While the cause of IBS remains unknown, multiple factors, including diet, stress, hormone, and genetic factors, may trigger or underlie the condition. 

In the current study, researchers analyzed healthcare data from 1.26 million IBS patient hospitalizations. The data was collected between 2016 and 2019 and recorded in the US-based National inpatient sample (NIS). They found that patients with IBS had a significantly higher incidence of various psychiatric conditions than the general population: 

  • Anxiety: 38.1% of IBS patients vs. 15.1% in the general population
  • Depression: 27.4% vs. 15.1%
  • Bipolar disorder: 5.22% vs. 2.38% 
  • Suicidal attempt or ideation: 3.22% vs. 2.38% 

​​​​​​The researchers noted that the gut-brain axis might explain the link between IBS and mental health conditions. In this sense, IBS symptoms may influence mental health, and mental health conditions may, in turn, affect gastrointestinal health.

“I frequently tell my patients who have IBS, that if they have any type of psychological stress, it will get expressed in some form or the other,” said senior author Yezaz Ghouri, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine and gastroenterology, in a press release

“The mesentery membrane that holds the intestines together has one of the largest collections of nerve cells in the body. When those nerves start firing impulses, that can lead to the state of nervousness in and around the GI tract, resulting in IBS symptoms. The resulting decline in patient quality of life can lead to poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking. Early evaluation and treatment of both IBS and associated psychiatric conditions is essential,” he added. 

Sources: EurekAlert, Irish Journal of Medical Science

About the Author
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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