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

About 1 percent of the U.S., or 3 million people, live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This is according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). IBD is a term that includes Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).1-2 Ulcerative colitis gets diagnosed slightly more often than Crohn’s disease.3

Who gets inflammatory bowel disease?

People are most often diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis between age 15 and 30. Some studies have found a second peak between ages 50 and 80. Women are slightly more likely to be diagnosed with Crohn’s. Ulcerative colitis is slightly more common in men.3

IBD, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are most common in:

  • Adults ages 45 and older
  • Non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics
  • Adults who did not graduate high school
  • Living in poverty
  • Living in the suburbs

People who are unemployed and born in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with IBD than people working or born outside the U.S.1 Both CD and UC are slightly more common in people of Jewish descent.3

Does geography play a role in inflammatory bowel disease?

Worldwide, more people in developed countries get ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s. It also seems to be more common in northern locations than southern ones.3 In the U.S., IBD is most common in the Northeast, followed by the South, Midwest, and then West.1

Countries in Africa, Asia, and South America are seeing more cases of CD and UC as their countries develop. In Brazil, rates of Crohn’s disease went up by 11.1 percent and ulcerative colitis by 14.9 percent since 1990. In Taiwan, CD increased 4 percent and UC by 4.8 percent since 1990..

Doctors believe there may be several reasons for this pattern. It could be that health care providers in developing nations do not recognize or diagnose the disease. They may assume diarrhea is caused by infection, for example. There could be something about the environment that protects people in less developed countries. Or, changes in diet and lifestyle in more developed countries may trigger IBD.3

Is inflammatory bowel disease becoming more common?

Studies show that the number of people with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis has increased since the 1970s.4,5 Westernized countries have seen the biggest increases but both conditions are becoming more common in developing countries. Hospitalization due to IBD appears to be increasing, too.6

IBD is just the start

Adults with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis are more likely than their peers to have other chronic health conditions such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease1-2

What are the costs of inflammatory bowel disease?

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are expensive conditions to treat. The CDC found that the average cost of a hospital stay in 2014 was:

  • $11,345 for Crohn’s
  • $13,412 for ulcerative colitis1

In 2019, the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation found that the health care of people with CD and UC costs 3 times more than people without IBD. The first year after diagnosis was the most expensive at more than $26,000. Treatment with biologics, emergency room use and flares drove up costs the most.7

A Canadian study found that people with IBD spent $4,781 (Canadian dollars) in indirect costs. This includes time off work, being less productive at work, out-of-pocket costs for natural remedies, and early retirement.8

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