Published November 13, 2014
Males with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experience more interpersonal difficulties than females with the condition, according to research by Jeffrey M. Lackner, PsyD, professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.
The study — one of the few to examine gender differences among IBS patients — “underscores the significance of studying gender-based differences in how people experience the same disease or condition,” Lackner says.
Previous psychological research has suggested that males with IBS take on stereotypically feminine traits, including passive and accommodating behaviors.
However, Lackner and his colleagues found that males report feeling cold and detached and a tendency to dominate relationships.
Moreover, males, not females, report having more difficulties in interpersonal relationships.
“That discrepancy underscores our need to move beyond clinical intuition and anecdote, and systematically study the different ways that each gender experiences disease in general,” says Lackner.
Lackner presented the study, “Understanding Gender Differences in IBS: The Role of Stress From the Social Environment,” at the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) annual meeting in Philadelphia in October.
The ACG selected the study to be presented as a Presidential Poster session, a recognition of highly novel and significant research. The designation was given to less than 5 percent of the more than 2,000 abstracts exhibited.
The findings also may be relevant for understanding the ways male IBS patients interact with their doctors, says Lackner.
“Patients who have a domineering and distant interpersonal style may need to work more closely with physicians to get the most out of treatment,” he notes.
IBS — one of most common, disabling and intractable gastrointestinal disorders —is estimated to affect between 25 million and 50 million Americans.
Because IBS is twice as common among women as men, far less is known about how men experience the disease.
The UB study revealed little difference between genders in the severity of their gastrointestinal symptoms, which include abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation.
Lackner co-authored the study with researchers from:
The study was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.