Depression but Not Symptom Severity is Associated With Work and School Absenteeism in Refractory Chronic Constipation

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We sought to determine the patient characteristics associated with increased absenteeism and Emergency Department (ED) utilization among patients with constipation.


Chronic constipation is associated with significant direct and indirect economic costs. There has been limited study of the predictors of direct and indirect costs in a population with refractory constipation.


We conducted a cross-sectional cohort study of patients with chronic constipation who presented to a tertiary care center for anorectal manometry. We used standardized instruments to assess disease severity, quality of life, somatization, and psychiatric comorbidities. We used multivariable logistic regression to determine the predictors of work and school absenteeism as well as ED visits for constipation.


There were 148 consecutive patients enrolled (87% female, mean age 43) of whom 32 (21.6%) had high absenteeism and 36 (24.3%) visited the ED for constipation in the past year. Patients with high absenteeism and ED visits were more likely to be depressed (56.3% vs. 18.5%, P<0.0001 for high absenteeism; 47.2% vs. 19.6%, P<0.01 for ED visits). After multivariable adjustment and sensitivity analyses, only depression (OR, 4.41; P<0.01) was associated with increased absenteeism while there was a trend toward an association between depression and ED visits (OR, 2.57; P=0.067). Symptom severity was not associated with high absenteeism or ED utilization.


Among patients with chronic constipation, depression is a stronger predictor of absenteeism than symptom severity. Depression may drive a portion of the indirect costs of chronic constipation.

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