Risk factors for constipation

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Constipation is a common side-effect of pregnancy.
Constipation is a common side-effect of pregnancy.

Risk factors for constipation include: 

  • Age (older people are more likely to become constipated)
  • Gender (women are more likely to become constipated)
  • Dehydration
  • A diet that’s low in fibre
  • Little or no physical activity
  • The use of certain medications
  • The presence of certain conditions (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease)

Who gets constipation?

Nearly everyone becomes constipated at one point or another.  

Older people are more likely to become constipated, as the muscles in the digestive system no longer work as well. However, constipation isn’t a normal part of ageing. 

Women are more likely to suffer from constipation than men, with some studies showing that they’re three times more likely to be affected. The reasons aren’t entirely understood, but it’s thought to be because of hormone changes.

About two in every five women experience constipation during their pregnancy, mostly during the early stages. This is because the body produces more progesterone, which acts as a muscle relaxant.

Constipation also seems to be more common in people of low socio-economic status and low education level. This is most likely due to a lack of available information as well as a diet that’s lower in whole grains, fruit and vegetables.

People who don’t exercise much, and those on certain medications, are also more likely to be constipated.

Constipation is quite common in babies and children. Poor diet, fear about using the toilet, and poor toilet training can all be responsible. Children who are overfed, and babies who have too much milk, are more likely to get constipated. 

Read more:
Causes and prognosis of constipation

Reviewed by Kim Hofmann, registered dietitian, BSc Medical (Honours) Nutrition and Dietetics, BSc (Honours) Psychology, December 2017.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
27% - 9954 votes
73% - 26311 votes