Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Original research
Association of healthy lifestyle behaviours with incident irritable bowel syndrome: a large population-based prospective cohort study


Objectives To evaluate the association between healthy lifestyle behaviours and the incidence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Design Population-based prospective cohort study.

Setting The UK Biobank.

Participants 64 268 adults aged 37 to 73 years who had no IBS diagnosis at baseline were enrolled between 2006 and 2010 and followed up to 2022.

Main exposure The five healthy lifestyle behaviours studied were never smoking, optimal sleep, high level of vigorous physical activity, high dietary quality and moderate alcohol intake.

Main outcome measure The incidence of IBS.

Results During a mean follow-up of 12.6 years, 961 (1.5%) incident IBS cases were recorded. Among the 64 268 participants (mean age 55.9 years, 35 342 (55.0%) female, 7604 (11.8%) reported none of the five healthy lifestyle behaviours, 20 662 (32.1%) reported 1 behaviour, 21 901 (34.1%) reported 2 behaviours and 14 101 (21.9%) reported 3 to 5 behaviours at baseline. The multivariable adjusted hazard ratios associated with having 1, 2 and 3 to 5 behaviours for IBS incidence were 0.79 (95% confidence intervals 0.65 to 0.96), 0.64 (0.53 to 0.78) and 0.58 (0.46 to 0.72), respectively (P for trend <0.001). Never smoking (0.86, 0.76 to 0.98, P=0.02), high level of vigorous physical activity (0.83, 0.73 to 0.95, P=0.006) and optimal sleep (0.73, 0.60 to 0.88, P=0.001) demonstrated significant independent inverse associations with IBS incidence. No significant interactions were observed between these associations and age, sex, employment status, geographic location, gastrointestinal infection, endometriosis, family history of IBS or lifestyle behaviours.

Conclusions Adhering to a higher number of healthy lifestyle behaviours is significantly associated with a lower incidence of IBS in the general population. Our findings suggest the potential of lifestyle modifications as a primary prevention strategy for IBS.


Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The UK Biobank data are available on application at

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.