The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with increased psychological distress and gastrointestinal symptoms among patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and comorbid anxiety and/or depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

Adults with IBS are more likely than the general population to report distress, with up to 50% reporting anxiety and depression. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of anxiety and/or depression among the general population are higher than previous years. Thus, researchers sought to describe the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on psychological distress and gastrointestinal symptoms among patients with IBS and comorbid anxiety and/or depression.

Fifty-five participants completed an online survey with questions about anxiety, depression, the impact of COVID-19 on activities and symptoms, and demographics. Mean patient age was 39.6 years. The majority of participants were women (82%). IBS with diarrhea was the most common subtype (44%).

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The researchers found that the COVID-19 pandemic most commonly influenced participants’ ability to spend time with friends and family (80% and 64%, respectively), shop for certain types of food (40%), and utilize health care resources (31%).

Roughly 92% of patients reported an increase in stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Increases in symptoms of anxiety and depression were also reported among 81% and 67% of participants, respectively. In addition, around half of the sample reported increases in gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain (48%), diarrhea (45%), or constipation (44%).

This study was limited by the use of only self-reported data from participants. Additionally, levels of anxiety and depression prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in this population were not assessed.

“In conclusion, given that individuals with IBS and depression and/or anxiety reported pandemic conditions affected many of their normal activities and exacerbated their psychological distress and physical symptoms, health care providers should recognize the pre-existing vulnerabilities with which these IBS patients in particular are entering into the pandemic environment,” the authors stated.


Kamp KJ, Levy RL, Munson SA, Heitkemper MM. Impact of COVID-19 on individuals with irritable bowel syndrome and comorbid anxiety and/or depression. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2022;56(2):e149–e152. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000001515 

This article originally appeared on Gastroenterology Advisor