DOI: 10.1111/jir.13108 ISSN: 0964-2633

Clinical characteristics of people with intellectual disability admitted to hospital with constipation: identifying possible specific high‐risk factors

R. Laugharne, M. Wilcock, J. Rees, D. Wainwright, N. Newton, J. Sterritt, S. Badger, R. Bishop, P. Bassett, R. Shankar
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Neurology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Rehabilitation



People with intellectual disabilities (ID) die on an average 20 years earlier to the general population. They have higher rates of multimorbidity and polypharmacy. Around 25% of people with ID report chronic constipation. The England Learning Disabilities Mortality Review found that nearly 25% of deaths identified constipation as a long‐term health problem. However, the likely risk factors for constipation related harm are poorly enumerated. We sought to identify possible specific high‐risk factors by examining the clinical characteristics of people with ID admitted to hospital with constipation.


Data of people with ID admitted with constipation in two general hospitals covering a population of 1.3 million from 2017 to 2022 were reported using the STROBE guideline for cohort studies. Collected data included age, gender, intellectual disability severity, recorded medication, presenting complaint and co‐morbidities. The medication anticholinergic burden was calculated using the anticholinergic burden scale. Continuous variables were summarised by mean and standard deviation if normally distributed, with categorical variables summarised by the number and percentage in each category.


Of 46 admissions (males 52%), 57% had moderate to profound ID, 37% had epilepsy, 41% prescribed antiseizure medication (ASM) and 45% were on laxatives. Average age was 46 years. The anticholinergic burden score mean was 2.3 and median, one.


We can hypothesise that people with more severe ID, suffering from epilepsy and on ASM may be more at risk of developing severe constipation. Some admissions may be avoided with earlier use of laxatives in the community.

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