Research suggests that IBS is a common condition, and females are more likely to have it than males. Genes, psychological conditions, and gastrointestinal infections can all increase a person’s risk of developing IBS.

IBS is a gastrointestinal tract disease that affects people globally.

It is more common among women, and symptoms typically begin before age 35. Medical experts do not know what causes IBS, but they believe it may be due to problems with how the gut works.

This article explores the prevalence of IBS, including risk factors, symptoms, and when to contact a doctor.

A female's face against an orange background with a plant. IBS is a common condition in the United States, and females are more likely to have it than males.Share on Pinterest
Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

A 2020 meta-analysis notes that IBS is one of the most common gut-brain interaction disorders.

Researchers estimate that it affects 1 in 10 people worldwide. In North America, prevalence varies from almost 12– 14%.

However, the above meta-analysis notes that most research focuses on the prevalence of IBS in North American and European populations, even though IBS affects people globally. Therefore, further research is required to better establish the prevalence of IBS.

About 70% of people with IBS have symptoms ranging from moderate to severe, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).

There are several risk factors for IBS, including:

  • Sex: IFFGD notes that about 2 in 3 people with IBS are female.
  • Genes: People with a family history of IBS have an increased risk of IBS.
  • Stress: According to health experts, stressful life events, such as trauma, grief, unresolved childhood issues, or job loss, can affect bowel habits and trigger abdominal pain, leading to IBS.
  • Other gastrointestinal infections: A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that people with infectious enteritis and other foodborne illnesses are four times more likely to have IBS.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) states that people younger than 50 years old have a greater chance of developing IBS than people older than age 50.

According to the Office on Women’s Health (OASH), IBS symptoms usually begin before age 35.

Symptoms of IBS include the following:

The NIDDK notes that while IBS symptoms can be severe, the condition does not cause physical damage to the digestive system.

Learn more about the signs of IBS.

People with IBS are more likely to have other health issues, known as comorbid conditions. Symptoms of IBS can also overlap with other conditions.

About 50% of people with IBS have a comorbid condition. We explore these related conditions in further detail below.

Conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract

Some gastrointestinal conditions have common symptoms that overlap with IBS. These include:

Conditions affecting other parts of the body

Some conditions affecting other body systems can increase a person’s risk of IBS and vice-versa. These include:

Psychological condition

Around 54–94% of people with IBS have a co-occurring psychological condition, per the IFFGD. Anxiety and depression are the most common psychological comorbidities in IBS patients.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional if they have symptoms of IBS or an IBS-related condition. They will assess a person’s symptoms, order additional testing, or refer them to a gastroenterologist if necessary.

Healthcare professionals will also be able to discuss treatment options.

Learn more about how to cope with IBS.

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that does not cause damage to the digestive system. However, symptoms can affect a person’s lifestyle.

Research estimates that around 1 in 10 people have IBS globally, of which about 70% have moderate to severe symptoms.

Risk factors, including age, gender, family history, and gastrointestinal infections, can increase a person’s risk of IBS. Females are more likely to have the condition than males.

IBS shares symptoms with other gastrointestinal conditions, such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Having IBS can also increase the risk of co-occurring conditions.

There is no cure for IBS. However, healthcare professionals will evaluate a person’s symptoms and recommend the best treatment. Treatment can help people manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.