In many communities, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is more common in women than in men. In fact, in the United States, women are twice as likely as men to have IBS. Reasons for this sex-related discrepancy, however, are unclear.

In the August 2004 issue of Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, Vivien Miller, MSc, and colleagues reported the results of their study that examined male and female traits of 70 consecutive, male, secondary care outpatients fulfilling Rome I diagnostic criteria for IBS and 70 matched controls. A validated questionnaire designed to measure male and female traits and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale were administered to all study participants. Results showed that male patients with IBS have significantly lower male trait scores than do controls (94.3 ± 16.3 vs 104.8 ± 14.4; P < .001), even when scores are adjusted for age (patients with IBS, 94.6; controls, 104.5; P < .001).

The authors concluded that men with IBS exhibit fewer male characteristics than do men without IBS. They advised that additional work is needed to determine whether this finding is a cause or an effect of IBS.