Observational Study
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2015. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Mar 28, 2015; 21(12): 3628-3635
Published online Mar 28, 2015. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i12.3628
Prevalence and factors associated with irritable bowel syndrome among university students in Lebanon: Findings from a cross-sectional study
Christy Costanian, Hala Tamim, Shafika Assaad
Christy Costanian, Hala Tamim, School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Toronto, ON M3J1P3, Canada
Shafika Assaad, Lebanese University, Faculty of Sciences, Beirut 961, Lebanon
Author contributions: Costanian C contributed towards study design, hypothesis conception, data analysis and interpretation, manuscript drafting and write-up; Tamim H contributed to the analysis, interpretation, drafting and write up of the paper; Assaad S contributed to hypothesis conception, study logistics, and data collection; all authors provided critical insight, and revisions to the manuscript; all authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript submitted for publication.
Supported by Pathophysiology Research Unit at the Lebanese University.
Ethics approval: The study was reviewed and approved by the Lebanese University Institutional Review Board.
Informed consent: All study participants, or their legal guardian, provided informed written consent prior to study enrollment.
Conflict-of-interest: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Data sharing: No additional data are available.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Correspondence to: Christy Costanian, MSC, School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J1P3, Canada. chc01@yorku.ca
Telephone: +1-416-7362100 Fax: +1-416-7365774
Received: October 9, 2014
Peer-review started: October 10, 2014
First decision: October 29, 2014
Revised: December 9, 2014
Accepted: January 8, 2015
Article in press: January 8, 2015
Published online: March 28, 2015

AIM: To describe the bowel habits and the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and to investigate the influence of health behavior and social factors on IBS prevalence in university students.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study was conducted at five major universities in Greater Beirut and its suburbs, between February and June 2014. Using a convenience sample, a total of 813 students aged 18 years old and above participated in this study. Participants were asked to complete a comprehensive anonymous questionnaire which detailed characteristics on socio-demographic, health-related, and lifestyle factors, as well as IBS. The ROME III criteria were used as a tool to ascertain IBS. A χ2 test was used to determine differences between categorical variables; stepwise logistic regression was used to measure the association between IBS and its risk factors.

RESULTS: An overall prevalence of IBS of 20% was recorded among university students. The bivariate analysis showed that females were significantly more likely to report having IBS than males (29.1% vs 18.2%, P < 0.01). Those living at the school dormitory or in a private residence (39.5%) were more likely to have IBS than those living with their families (16.3%) (P < 0.01). The multivariate analysis showed that those who had a relatively high family income level (US$ > 2000) were almost 6 times more likely to report having IBS than their counterparts.

CONCLUSION: This is the first study to describe the nature of IBS among young adults in Lebanon. The prevalence of IBS among university students in our sample was higher than that reported in the West.

Keywords: Irritable bowel syndrome, Lebanon, Social factors, Prevalence, ROME III criteria

Core tip: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an acknowledged functional gastrointestinal disorder of major public health concern. Little is known about IBS prevalence in Arab countries and specifically among university students, including Lebanon. Therefore, an epidemiological study, the first of its kind, investigating IBS among university students in Lebanon was conducted. The prevalence of IBS reported in this study was relatively high and similar to the estimate found in industrialized countries. The risk of having IBS, after adjusting for confounders was significantly higher among females than males, those aged 22 years or younger, among those who were living in a private house or in the school dormitory on their own, and among subjects with middle to high income levels. Findings of this study have important implications for IBS screening and management, as they highlight the importance of engaging in healthy behaviors to minimize IBS symptoms and enhance quality of life among IBS patients.