Ulcerative Colitis Statistics

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last Reviewed: September 2019.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease in which the inner surface of the rectum and colon (part of the large intestine) become inflamed. It has no known cause. UC is a chronic disorder, meaning symptoms flare up and go into remission many times throughout a person’s life. About 750,000 people in North America are living with ulcerative colitis.1

UC affects between 40 and 240 people per 100,000, meaning it is a relatively uncommon condition.1 People with a close family member with ulcerative colitis are between 1 and 30 percent more likely to also develop UC.2,3

The demographics of ulcerative colitis

Race and ethnicity

Inflammatory bowel disease affects people of all racial and ethnic groups. It is found more often in North America and western Europe than in other parts of the world. It is more common in Caucasians and people of eastern and central European (Ashkenazi) Jewish descent than other demographic groups.
It is less common in African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans. However, racial and ethnic gaps are closing.4


Most people are diagnosed with UC between ages 15 and 35, but the condition can develop at any age.1 Some people experience their first symptoms between ages 50 and 70, or in the first year of life.2

Ulcerative colitis is rare in children younger than 8 and tends to be more severe than in adults. UC can delay puberty and impact final adult height.4


Ulcerative colitis affects males and females equally, but men are more likely to be diagnosed with UC in their 50s and 60s than women.2-6


UC is found more often in people with lower incomes and less education.4


UC is more common among people who have stopped smoking or who never smoked.4


Inflammatory bowel disease is more common in general in industrialized countries than in developing countries, and in northern parts of these countries than the southern regions. It is also more common in cities than in rural communities, and in people with white-collar jobs. Rates of the disease are increasing worldwide. The countries with the highest rates of UC are the U.S., Denmark and Iceland.1-7

These facts lead researchers to believe that a western lifestyle plays a role in ulcerative colitis, such as diet, smoking, sunlight exposure, pollution and industrial chemicals.4

Costs of ulcerative colitis

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that hospitalization rates increased dramatically between 2003 and 2013, with a mean (average) cost per hospital stay of $13,412 for UC.5

Severity of ulcerative colitis

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis tend to come and go throughout a person’s life. In fact, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation estimates that during the year:

  • 48 percent are in remission
  • 30 percent face mild disease
  • 20 percent face moderate disease
  • 1 percent to 2 percent have severe disease

Also, 70 percent of those with active UC will go through another episode the following year. Thirty percent of those in remission in a given year will live through a flare in the next year. This means that the longer a person with UC stays in remission, the less likely they will have flares.6

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