Constipation Has Serious Impact on Health of Older Women

Published Online: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
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Constipation is clearly an uncomfortable condition, but the results of a recent study suggest that persistent constipation may have more serious consequences for older women. The study, published online on May 30, 2013, in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, analyzed the effect of persistent and transient constipation on health-related quality of life, depression, and mortality in elderly women.

The researchers selected more than 5000 women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, which sent out a series of 5 surveys spaced 3 years apart. Women were selected if they responded to a question in all 5 surveys asking whether they had had constipation in the past 12 months.

Nearly 21% of the women selected reported persistent constipation on at least 4 of the surveys, while 54% reported having transient constipation on 1 to 3 surveys. Approximately 25% of those selected reported no constipation at all during the 15-year period covered by the study. Women with persistent constipation also reported significantly lower quality of life and higher levels of depression.

The mortality rate for women with persistent constipation was 11%, while the rate for women without constipation was 8.2%. The decrease in quality of life and increased rates of depression and mortality in women with persistent constipation remained significant even after adjusting for chronic illnesses.

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