Objective: Stress is thought to be one of the triggers of relapses in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). We examined the rate of relapse in IBD patients before and after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Design: A retrospective cohort study. Settings: 13 hospitals in Japan. Participants: 546 ulcerative colitis (UC) and 357 Crohn's disease (CD) patients who received outpatient and inpatient care at 13 hospitals located in the area that were seriously damaged by the earthquake. Data on patient's clinical characteristics, disease activity and deleterious effects of the earthquake were obtained from questionnaires and hospital records. Primary outcome: We evaluated the relapse rate (from inactive to active) across two consecutive months before and two consecutive months after the earthquake. In this study, we defined 'active' as conditions with a partial Mayo score=2 or more (UC) or a Harvey-Bradshaw index=6 or more (CD). Results: Among the UC patients, disease was active in 167 patients and inactive in 379 patients before the earthquake. After the earthquake, the activity scores increased significantly (p<0.0001). A total of 86 patients relapsed (relapse rate=15.8%). The relapse rate was about twice that of the corresponding period in the previous year. Among the CD patients, 86 patients had active disease and 271 had inactive disease before the earthquake. After the earthquake, the activity indices changed little. A total of 25 patients experienced a relapse (relapse rate=7%). The relapse rate did not differ from that of the corresponding period in the previous year. Multivariate analyses revealed that UC, changes in dietary oral intake and anxiety about family finances were associated with the relapse. Conclusions: Life-event stress induced by the Great East Japan Earthquake was associated with relapse in UC but not CD.
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