The incidence of gastrointestinal diseases was studied in a community-based study in four regions of The Netherlands. Two grades of severity were distinguished − 1: diarrhoea or vomiting and at least 2 additional symptoms within the period of 1 week, and 2: diarrhoea or vomiting and at least 2 additional symptoms occurring on the same day lasting at least 2 days within the period of 1 week. The incidence of gastrointestinal episodes was calculated to be 630 for grade 1 and 180 for grade 2 disease per 1000 person-years, after correction for age and sex. The incidence was higher for women than for men (relative risk 1·25) and lower for those in the 19–64-year-old age group when compared to those younger or older (relative risk 0·75 and 0·40. respectively). Independent of the degree of severity of the symptoms, about 20% of the patients had consulted a general practitioner, about half in person and half by telephone. It is concluded that community studies are essential to assess the real incidence of gastrointestinal diseases in the population.
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