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Effects of personality traits on the manifestations of irritable bowel syndrome

Jun Tayama1, Naoki Nakaya2, Toyohiro Hamaguchi3, Tadaaki Tomiie4, Masae Shinozaki5, Tatsuo Saigo1, Susumu Shirabe1 and Shin Fukudo5*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Health and Community Medicine, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan

2 Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization, Tohoku University, Tohoku, Japan

3 Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Health and Social Services, Saitama Prefectural University, Saitama, Japan

4 School of Psychological Science, Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, Hokkaido, Japan

5 Department of Behavioral Medicine, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Tohoku, Japan

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BioPsychoSocial Medicine 2012, 6:20  doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-20

Published: 30 October 2012



Previous studies have reported that patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) show high neuroticism. However, the precise association between the IBS subtypes and the degree of neuroticism in younger populations is largely unknown. We tested our hypothesis that subjects with diarrhea-predominant IBS may have a higher degree of neuroticism than subjects without IBS or those with other subtypes of IBS. We also verified the additional hypothesis that the severity of neuroticism might be correlated with the severity of IBS in younger populations.


We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 557 university students, ranging in age from 18 to 21 years. Presence/ absence of IBS and determination of the IBS subtype was by the Rome II Modular Questionnaire, while the severity of IBS was determined by the IBS severity index (IBS-SI). The degree of neuroticism was evaluated using the Maudsely Personality Inventory (MPI). The presence/absence of psychological distress was measured with the K6 scale.


Neuroticism scores in the subjects with diarrhea-predominant IBS were significantly higher than those in the non-IBS subjects or subjects with constipation-predominant IBS. The neuroticism scores were significantly correlated with the IBS-SI scores in all subjects with IBS.


These results suggest that neuroticism is involved in the pathophysiology of IBS in young subjects, especially in that of the diarrhea-predominant subtype.

Personality; Irritable bowel syndrome; Depression; Neuroticism; Brain- gut interactions