Gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms are common in the community, but there has been no definitive systematic review and meta-analysis of data from all studies to estimate their global prevalence, or potential risk factors for them.
Medline, Embase and Embase Classic were searched (until September 2016) to identify population-based studies that reported the prevalence of gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms in adults (≥15 years); gastro-oesophageal reflux was defined using symptom-based criteria or questionnaires. The prevalence was extracted for all studies, and according to the criteria used to define it. Pooled prevalence, according to study location and certain other characteristics, OR and 95% CIs were calculated.
Of the 14 132 citations evaluated, 102 reported the prevalence of gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms in 108 separate study populations, containing 460 984 subjects. Prevalence varied according to country (from 2.5% in China to 51.2% in Greece) and criteria used to define gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms. When only studies using a weekly frequency of heart burn or regurgitation to define presence were considered, pooled prevalence was 13.3% (95% CI 12.0% to 14.6%). Prevalence was higher in subjects ≥50 years (OR 1.32; 95% CI 1.12 to 1.54), smokers (OR 1.26; 95% CI 1.04 to 1.52), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)/aspirin users (OR 1.44; 95% CI 1.10 to 1.88) and obese individuals (OR 1.73; 95% CI 1.46 to 2.06).
The prevalence of gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms varied strikingly among countries, even when similar definitions were used to define their presence. Prevalence was significantly higher in subjects ≥50 years, smokers, NSAID users and obese individuals, although these associations were modest.