Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic gastrointestinal disorder of unknown pathological origin that is associated with psychological distress and reduced health-related quality of life (HRQoL). We investigated the effects of stress-management for adults with IBS on typical symptoms, HRQoL and mental health. With predefined criteria (patients: adults with IBS; intervention: stress-management; control: care as usual or waitlist; outcome: patient-relevant; study-type: controlled trials), we registered the study with PROSPERO (168030) and searched the main medical databases. Two researchers independently reviewed the publications and assessed the risk of bias using the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network checklist. We performed meta-analysis with homogeneous trials of acceptable quality. After screening 6,656 publications, ten suitable randomized trials of acceptable (n=5) or low methodological quality (n=5) involving 587 patients were identified. Our meta-analysis showed no effect of stress-management on IBS severity 1-2 months after the intervention (Hedges’ g= -0.23, 95%-CI= -0.84-0.38, I2= 86.1%), and after 3-12 months (Hedges’ g= -0.77, 95%-CI= -1.77-0.23, I2= 93.3%). One trial found a short-term reduction of symptoms, and one trial found symptom relief in the long-term (at six months). One of two studies that examined HRQoL found an improvement (after two months). One of two studies that examined depression and anxiety found a reduction of these symptoms (after three weeks).Stress-management may be beneficial for patients with IBS regarding the short-term reduction of bowel and mental health symptoms, whereas long-term benefits are unclear. Good quality RCTs with more than six months follow-up are needed.
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