This study will take place from March 2007 and will seek to recruit approximately 400 participants that have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). As the focus of the study is participants with IBS, anyone without symptoms or diagnosis should not take part.
The study is primarily interested in assessing the differences in illness and treatment beliefs in those with IBS that do or do not use complementary therapies as well as considering the role of patient perceptions of their health care consultations. In terms of specific analysis the study will consider the following:
1. Are there specific treatment or illness beliefs that may influence IBS patients to use complementary therapies (on more than one occasion)?
2. Does a more positive attitude to complementary medicine result in a better quality of life for those with IBS that use complementary medicines/treatments?
3. What is the relationship between illness and treatment beliefs, health care consultations and quality of life? And what role does coping play in this equation?
The study will be conducted online via a and initially participants will be contacted via an advertisement on the website of an IBS support network. Additional participants may be contacted via other illness support or discussion forums online. In both cases, a direct link to the research will be included and instructions the option to give consent/take part. The research as a whole should take between 30-40 minutes and participants will be asked to contact the primary researcher if they wish to take part in any potential follow up study.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic functional bowel condition characterised by both a variety of symptoms and symptom fluctuation. The prevalence of IBS is said to range from 15% to 25% of the population (Jones & Lydeard, 1992) but due to the fact that the condition is marked by a number of symptoms � it can often be difficult to treat successfully. It is for this reason that, for some people with IBS, conventional treatment can fall short of expectations to relieve symptoms meaning patients may turn to complementary or alternative medicines/treatments (CAM) to gain symptom relief (Hussain & Quiqley, 2006).
It has been well documented that CAM use has increased over the last two to three decades (Ernst, 2000) with reasons such as socio-demographic differences (Astin, 1998) to patient�s beliefs about their illness or treatment (e.g. Vincent & Furnham, 1996) given to explain this increase. However, despite the high prevalence of IBS, little research in this area has focused on CAM use in this particular patient group and the potential relationships between cognitive representations of treatment and illness, coping, patient perceptions of health care consultations and how these constructs may be related to CAM use and quality of life.
Using a self-regulatory theory framework (e.g. Leventhal et al 1984) this study will examine the illness perceptions and treatment beliefs of those with IBS and how these factors may be related to health care consultations, coping and quality of life. Of particular interest is the theory that those that have particular perceptions of their illness (e.g. a psychological cause) and beliefs about their medication (e.g. concerns about necessity of use or potential to harm) will be more likely to turn to complementary and alternative medicine on a repeated basis to manage their IBS symptoms. Relationships between the aforementioned constructs will be explored to determine potential areas for intervention to improve quality of life in those with IBS.