What Does Having IBD Say About You?

Inflammatory bowel disease patients report higher education, annual income, new study found.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is no picnic. In addition to persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain and rectal bleeding, those dealing with IBD often experience a slew of other symptoms associated with social anxiety. However, new research suggests there could be a silver lining.

According to a press release from the American Gastroenterological Association, a new study found that adults who are diagnosed with IBD during childhood are more likely to report higher levels of education attained and higher annual income than adults not diagnosed with IBD during childhood.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a broad term to describe conditions with chronic or recurring immune response and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common forms of IBD.

Nearly 1.3 million Americans deal with IBD, according to the CDC, and about 25 percent of IBD patients are diagnosed during childhood or adolescence--the peak of their social and educational development.

"The anxiety associated with a new diagnosis of IBD is significant to both children and their parents," lead study author Dr. Wael El-Matary said in the press release. "We hope our findings reassure families dealing with this diagnosis. Knowing that long-term educational levels attained, occupation and marital status are not worse compared to those without IBD will significantly help in alleviating a great part of this anxiety."

Dr. El-Matary hails from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.

To conduct the study, Dr. El-Matary’s team looked at adults diagnosed with IBD in childhood and adolescence between January 1978 and December 2007 at the Pediatric Gastroenterology Clinic in the Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg. He compared them with a healthy adult control group.

After analyzing data on reported educational achievements, employment and marital status, the team found that overall, the IBD patients earned more money per year than their healthy counterparts as well as achieved higher levels of education. IBD patients were also just as likely to get married as adults without IBD.

“We recognize that it may take several years for patients to find a treatment regimen that works best for their disease, hence why we decided to revisit patients many years after their initial diagnosis when they, hopefully, are following a stable and effective treatment plan,” Dr. El-Matary said in the press release. “What we found was hope at the end of the tunnel.”

This study was published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

The study was supported by an unrestricted grant from Janssen, Inc., a pharmaceutical company of Johnson & Johnson.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest.