Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Impacts Canadians at High Rates

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Impacts Canadians at High Rates

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be difficult to talk about. Many people with IBS are unlikely to advertise their status, and the silence can mask the prevalence of the condition.

That’s why it’s helpful to have statistics. In truth, Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world, affecting 18% of the national population (the global rate is closer to 11%).

That puts a significant strain on the Canadian healthcare system. It can take up to four years to make a positive IBS diagnosis, and those tests are expensive. The annual medical bill for an IBS patient is, on average, more than $2,000 higher than it is for someone without IBS, with nearly half (45%) of all direct IBS-related costs going towards diagnostic testing.    

Meanwhile, IBS spills over into other aspects of people’s lives and creates more problems as they wait for treatment. According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, IBS symptoms disrupt 70% of sufferer’s day-to-day lives, with many (46%) experiencing symptoms so severe that it forces them to call in sick to work or school.

That, in turn, can take a toll on people’s mental health. IBS makes it difficult to live a regular life, which is why around half the people with IBS end up struggling with some form of anxiety or depression.

Full-blown Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s or Colitis are not quite as common as IBS but the effects can be even more debilitating. Canada again has one of the highest rates in the world, with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada reporting that 270,000 Canadians are currently living with some form of IBD. That number is expected to climb to 400,000 by 2030, a figure that would represent 1% of the population.

Treating those cases costs an astounding $1.28 billion per year. However, that price tag is likely to grow, considering the rising frequency of IBD in children and senior citizens who often experience more complications while going through common IBD treatments.

That’s why it’s so important to cultivate a better understanding of IBS and IBD, and to make sure Canadians have ready access to quality healthcare. In rural areas, many people with IBD are unable to see a gastroenterologist. Without that specialized approach, IBD can become worse over time. Improving care across the board can prevent more serious complications and mitigate the future impact of IBD on the Canadian medical system.   

While Ontario and Quebec have the highest number of IBD patients because of their larger populations, the rates are relatively consistent throughout Canada. The one exception is Nova Scotia, where IBD is roughly twice as common as it is in other parts of the country.

Taken together, IBD and IBS are a national concern that has a measurable impact on people’s productivity and medical expenses. It’s an awkward conversation, but learning to talk about it will raise awareness, reduce stigma, and lead to better outcomes as Canadian doctors continue to battle the disease.


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