We interviewed 1,900 healthy subjects who belonged to one of the three following ethnic groups: (a) Ashkenazi Jews, (b) Sephardi and Oriental Jews, and (c) Arabs (including Druses)-about their bowel habits, laxative use, and beliefs about bowel action. Using stepwise logistic regression, we found that the following variables were significantly and independently related to bowel frequency: (a) sex-male > female (p = 0.0001); (b) age-young > old (p = 0.0001); (c) physical activity-high > little (p = 0.001); (d) body habitus-lean > obese (p = 0.02); (e) marital status-married > single (0 = 0.009); and (f) ethnic group-Arab > Jewish (p = 0.004). Regular use of laxatives was found in 18.4% of women and 10.8% of men (p < 0.0001). This habit was more common among Ashkenazi Jews (17%) than among Sephardi and Oriental Jews (10.7%) and Arabs (4.8%). Laxative intake was higher among the elderly (p = 0.0001) and the obese (p = 0.0004). Concerning the “ideal” bowel frequency, 12.4% of the Ashkenazis, 22.7% of the Sephardis and Oriental Jews, and 26.1% of the Arabs preferred to have at least 9 movements per week. Strikingly, 51.8% of all interviewed believed that constipation was “harmful to health;” women were more concerned than men (56.3% versus 47.5%). Subjects with a high level of education were significantly more concerned about constipation.
- Bowel habit
- Bowel movement