GI Woes Cut Into Work Productivity

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Updated: 6/19 2:25 am

Oct. 15, 2007 (Philadelphia) -- People who suffer from common gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and acid reflux often find it hard to get the job done, researchers report.

In a study of more than 400 men and women with the conditions, the average lost work time amounted to about one day in a 40-hour workweek.

About six hours per week were lost to what the researchers coined presenteeism --“when you’re at work but not getting work done because something else is not letting you function 100%,” says G. Richard Locke, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. An additional two hours were lost to absenteeism, he tells WebMD.

The study was presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology.

People With IBS Particularly Hard Hit

The study included 86 people who suffered from IBS with constipation, 39 people who had chronic constipation alone, 239 people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and 36 people with functional dyspepsia (recurrent discomfort in the upper abdomen that is often accompanied by bloating, belching, nausea, or heartburn).

They all filled out questionnaires asking how often they missed work and how productive they were while on the job every two weeks for a year.

Locke says that those who suffered from IBS with constipation, functional dyspepsia, and chronic constipation -- often called the functional GI disorders as they have normal test results despite severe symptoms -- were particularly hard hit. They lost 10.3 hours of work per week, on average, vs. 6.3 hours for people with GERD.

Howard Kroop, MD, a gastroenterologist at Thomas Jefferson Medical Center in Philadelphia, tells WebMD that people with functional GI disorders “tend to suffer a lot of anxiety and embarrassment that serve as triggers for more symptoms. That, in turn, weakens their sense of well-being and interferes with their ability to get the job done,” he says.

Also at high risk for poor productivity are people who suffer from IBS with diarrhea, he adds. They tend to have a lot of symptoms in the morning, which makes it difficult for them to get to work on time, Kroop explains.

(Do chronic digestive problems interfere with your job? How do you cope? Talk with others on WebMD's IBS: Support Group message board.)

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