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Bowel problems cost workers in Japan 1.2 million yen per year


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People with bowel problems are more likely to miss work and thereby suffer a strain on their earnings, according to a Japanese study.

Difficulty defecating may also cause a loss of focus in the workplace.

The findings of the study, by a team comprising researchers at Hyogo College of Medicine and another institute, were presented at the Digestive Disease Week workshop in the United States in May.

Chronic constipation sufferers take leave 8.8 percent on average per week, 2.3 times higher than coworkers with regular bowel movements, at 3.8 percent, according to the study.

The degree of productivity or quality of life (QOL) of people with such conditions were studied by the team based on the 2017 health data on about 30,000 Japanese people, including 963 who were diagnosed as having chronic constipation, provided by a private research firm.

The paper also notes that those with constipation tend to be less focused than their counterparts with regular movements. Of all workers listed in the data with bowel problems, 33.2 percent experienced lower productivity, 1.7 times that of those with smooth bowel movements, at 19.1 percent.

Other chronic health issues than constipation were not reflected in the analysis.

Based on such data, the team estimated the annual economic loss of those with bowel issues, given the average income of Japanese workers, at around 1.22 million yen ($11,230) per person, 1.8 times that of those who have smooth bowel movements, with a 690,000 yen annual loss.

The findings also showed that the more serious the symptoms, the lower the productivity.

Chronic constipation means being able to defecate normally less than three times a week or doing so with difficulty more than once every four times, with such symptoms continuing for several months.

Not recognized as a disease, constipation tends not to be regarded as a serious condition.

However, the research showed that the QOL of bowel problem sufferers is as low as that of those who suffer from gastric acid reflux problems causing an inflamed esophagus or type 2 diabetes.

Hiroto Miwa, chief professor in the college’s Division of Gastroenterology in the Department of Internal Medicine, who analyzed the data, said, “It’s clear that constipation sufferers should face up to their symptoms and get medical treatment, as it affects their QOL.

“Those who develop bowel problems may take a leave from work owing to pain in the abdomen or loss of motivation,” he added.

While there used to be few drug options for treating chronic constipation, numerous drugs have been developed and a medical care guideline for the health issue was released in 2017.

“We would like people to ingest water and dietary fiber as well as work out in their daily life,” said Miwa. “It is important to recognize constipation as a disease and (for sufferers) to receive medical treatment.”

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