Diverticulosis around the world

20th April 2021

A new review has been published about diverticulosis (in the bowel) with data from countries around the world. But before we dig deep into diverticulosis around the world, it’simportant that you know the difference between diverticulosis, diverticular disease and diverticulitis.

  • Diverticulosis is when pouches are formed along the bowel wall. It is very commonly diagnosed.
  • Diverticular disease is when these pouches cause symptoms for people.
  • Diverticulitis is when these pouches become infected, requiring medical attention.

What do we think causes diverticulosis?

A Western diet & lifestyle? This has been thought to contribute to the development of diverticulosis, but evidence that a low fibre diet causes these pouches is conflicting. For lifestyle, there are so many factors to consider.

Other possibilities: There are theories that these pouches might be related to increased pressures in the bowel (for example, straining). It may also link to differences in the connective tissues that make up the bowel wall. Some think there is a genetic component to it too.

Who has diverticulosis and where do they live?

There seems to be an increasing number of people living with these pouches in their bowel, particularly in developed countries. Numbers also seem to be increasing for people who are under 40 years old.

  • USA: Around a third of people aged 50-59 have diverticulosis. This increases to 7 in 10 people around age 80.
  • Asia: Rates appear to be increasing to around 6 in 25 people (from 2000-2010). Before, approximately 3 in 25 people had diverticulosis (from 1990-2000). This also varies from country to country, with 1 in 8 people affected in Korea, but 7 in 10 in Japan.
  • Africa: 2 in 100 people are diagnosed in Egypt with diverticulosis. This varies from Nigeria, where around 9 in 100 people are diagnosed.
  • Europe: The country with the lowest numbers was Romania, with 1 in 40 people diagnosed. In Italy, numbers are much higher at 7 in 10. Here in the UK, these pouches are thought to affect a third to a half of people during their lifetime.

Interestingly, the site of these pouches in the bowel differs between Eastern and Western countries. In Western countries, the vast majority of people have these pouches on the left side of the bowel, but people in Eastern countries are slightly more likely to develop it on their right side. Individuals with black ethnicity are likely to have a higher number and higher spread of pouches in the right side of the bowel, compared with the left.

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