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An observational, cross-sectional, epidemiology study of the characteristics of GERD in a large northeast urban population was performed using a self-responding 84-question survey. Four-hundred and ten surveys were completed from a population sample with demographics comparable to those of the 1990 US Census data.No differences in heartburn frequency (monthly) were found between white or black, male or female respondents. Heartburn was significantly (P = 0.01) less common in those over age 60 (36.9%) than in young (47.7%) or middle-age (57.3%) respondents. Impact of heartburn on social activities was less (P = 0.002) in the over 60 group (4.9%) compared with the young (19.3%) or middle-age (20.0%) groups. Although 49.8% of respondents were familiar to the term GERD, few were aware that swallowing difficulty (17.3%), asthma (9.3%) or hoarseness (11.5%) were possible symptoms and similar numbers considered stroke (33.2%) and cancer (31.7%) to be complications of GERD.Frequency of GERD symptoms in the United States is unaffected by gender or race but is lower in the elderly.