Purpose Numerous studies have investigated the prevalence of constipation and fecal incontinence (FI) in the general population and, even though these disorders are known to cooccur, they were studied independently of each other. Our aim was to investigate the prevalence of constipation and FI, and their co-occurrence, in the general population in the Netherlands.
Methods We studied a cross-section of the Dutch population (N = 1259). All respondents completed the Groningen Defecation & Fecal Continence checklist. We defined constipation and FI in accordance with the Rome III criteria.
Results We found that 24.5% (95% CI, 22.1-26.8) suffered from constipation, 7.9% (95% CI, 6.4-9.4) suffered from FI, and 3.5% (95% CI, 2.5-4.5) suffered from both disorders. Constipated respondents were 2.7 times more likely to suffer from FI than non-constipated respondents (95% CI, 1.8-4.0). Moreover, 48.7% of the respondents with constipation, 35.0% with FI, and 38.6% in whom the disorders co-occurred qualified their bowel habits as either "good" or "very good". We found that 49.4% of the respondents with constipation and 48.0% with FI had not discussed their complaints with anyone.
Conclusions Constipation and FI, isolated or co-occurring, are common disorders in the general population, even in young and healthy respondents. Since constipation and FI often co-occur, we recommend that patients who seek medical attention for either disorder should be examined for both. Moreover, constipation and/or FI are not always identified appropriately by patients. Therefore, physicians should take the initiative to diagnose and treat these disorders.