Background and Aims: To determine the prevalence of heartburn in the Australian community, and document factors precipitating it and medications used in treatment.
Methods: Telephone interviews with 1200 individuals aged 18 years or more were conducted one weekend in 1996. Each respondent was asked four questions about heartburn, its severity, factors causing it and current therapy.
Results: Fifty-six per cent of respondents reported that they had suffered from heartburn at some time in the past and 37% had symptoms at least once every 4–6 months. The frequency of heartburn increased with age and was more common in men (40.7%) than women (32.6%). There was no difference in frequency between city and rural dwellers, or between white- and blue-collar workers. Almost half the individuals experienced mild pain or discomfort, one-third had moderate discomfort and 15% reported severe pain or discomfort. Women were more likely to report greater problems than men. Aggravating factors included spicy foods, greasy/rich foods, stress, alcohol, overeating, pregnancy, smoking, food allergy and coffee. More than half the respondents relied on antacids to control symptoms, 20% used prescription medications and a similar number did not use any medication.
Conclusion: Heartburn is common in the Australian community and sufferers attribute symptoms to various lifestyle events, including diet and stress. Antacid usage is the commonest mode of therapy.