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Population-based studies on the prevalence of encopresis in children are scarce and generally outdated. Prevalence estimates based on clinical studies are unreliable because parents tend to be reticent to seek medical help for this problem. Professional help is necessary, however, because encopresis can lead to serious psychosocial health problems. The authors examined the prevalence of encopresis in children, the frequency of visits made to general practitioners for encopresis and the psychosocial health problems of encopretic children.This population-based study involved 13,111 parents and their 5- to 6-year-old children and 9,780 parents and their 11- to 12-year-old children, all residents of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.The prevalence of encopresis was 4.1% in the 5-to-6 age group and 1.6% in the 11-to-12 age group. Encopresis was more frequent among boys and children from the very depressed areas of the city. Encopresis was less frequent among Moroccan and Turkish children. A defecation frequency of less than three per week was found in 3.8% of the 5- to 6-year-olds and 10.1% of the 11- to 12-year-olds with encopresis. Only 37.7% of the 5- to 6-year-olds and 27.4% of the 11- to 12-year-olds who had encopresis had ever been taken to see a doctor for this problem. Psychosocial problems were far more common among children with encopresis than among normal children.Encopresis is a common condition that is often associated with psychosocial health disorders but only a small proportion of the children with encopresis are taken to a general practitioner to discuss their problem.