Prevalence of constipation in people with intellectual disability: A systematic review

Janet Robertson, Susannah Baines, Eric Emerson, Chris Hatton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Constipation can lead to serious health issues and death. This systematic review summarises international research pertaining to the prevalence of constipation in people with intellectual disability. Method: Studies published from 1990 to January 2016 were identified using Medline, Cinahl, PsycINFO, Web of Science, email requests, and cross-citations. Studies were reviewed narratively. Results: 31 studies were identified. Constipation rates of 50% or more were reported in 14 studies; 21 studies reported rates over 33%. Based on the most representative study, over 25% of people with intellectual disability received a repeat prescription for laxatives in one year, compared to 0.1% of people without intellectual disability. Constipation was more common in those with cerebral palsy and profound intellectual disability, and associated with immobility but not age. Conclusion: Constipation is a significant issue for people with intellectual disability across the life course and should be actively considered as a diagnosis in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-406
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • constipation
  • intellectual disability
  • prevalence
  • systematic review


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