Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr.  2021 Jan;24(1):45-53. 10.5223/pghn.2021.24.1.45.

Prevalence of Defecation Disorders and their Symptoms is Comparable in Children and Young Adults: Cross-Sectional Study

  • 1Department of Surgery, Division of Pediatric Surgery, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 2Department of Surgery, Anorectal Physiology Laboratory, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands


We aimed to compare the prevalence rates and associated symptoms of constipation and fecal incontinence in children and young adults and evaluate how these patient groups cope with these disorders.
A cross-sectional study was performed in which 212 children (8–17 years) and 149 young adults (18–29 years) from the general Dutch population completed a questionnaire about defecation disorders.
Constipation occurred in 15.6% of children and 22.8% of young adults (p=0.55), while the prevalence of fecal incontinence was comparable between groups (7%,p=0.91). The symptoms associated with constipation occurred as often in children as in young adults, while most fecal incontinence symptoms occurred more often in young adults.Approximately 43% of children had constipation for more than 5 years, while 26% of young adults experienced constipation since childhood. Only 27% of constipated children and 21% of constipated young adults received treatment (mostly laxatives). For fecal incontinence, 13% of children and 36% of young adults received treatment (mostly antidiarrheal medications or incontinence pads).
In contrast to the general belief, the prevalence of defecation disorders and associated symptoms seem to be comparable in children and young adults. Only a few people with defecation disorders receive adequate treatment.


Constipation; Fecal incontinence; Prevalence; Therapeutics
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