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Historically, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) was thought to predominantly affect whites. However, IBD is now increasingly recognized in diverse ethnic populations. There is a paucity of studies of IBD in nonwhite populations, especially in Mexican Americans. The aims of this study were to compare the impact of IBD on the quality of life of whites, African Americans, and Mexican Americans and to evaluate differing patient understanding and beliefs regarding IBD. Materials and Methods: A questionnaire was administered to 148 patients between June 1999 and November 2003 at a university gastroenterology practice in Houston, Tex. Results: Caucasians (W) comprised 40%, African Americans (AA) 37%, and Mexican Americans (MA) 20% of the respondents. AA and W had predominantly Crohn's disease (CD), whereas MA had predominantly ulcerative colitis (UC; P < 0.05). We therefore compared W and AA with CD and W and MA with UC. W were more likely to tell their employers (57% vs 27.5%, P = 0.02), fellow employees (68% vs 43.8%, P = 0.02) and friends (100% vs 79%, P = 0.034) that they had CD. W and AA were equally as likely to have regular checkups by a physician, and there was no difference in the access to gastroenterologists or surveillance colonoscopy. There were fewer differences between MA and W with UC. MA were more likely to believe that UC was caused by stress (70% vs 37%, p = 0.044) and cigarette smoking. Conclusions: Significant differences appear among racial and ethnic groups with IBD regarding attitudes toward disease and impact on daily life. Appreciation of varying ethnic and racial perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs among patients with IBD may be critical to more effective management.