Self-reported cases of endometriosis affected 3.4 percent of reproductive-aged women — around 276,000 cases — in an Australian population-based study.
The prevalence is lower than what previously had been described, a potential consequence of undiagnosed endometriosis and lack of awareness.
The study, “The prevalence of self-reported diagnosed endometriosis in the Australian population: results from a nationally-representative survey” was published in the journal BMC Research Notes.
In 2010, the World Bank estimated that 176 million women of reproductive age worldwide have endometriosis. In Australia, estimates point to 560,000 women being affected, but the real prevalence of endometriosis remains unknown.
A group of researchers used a national representative sample of 2,019 Australians to assess the prevalence of endometriosis in the Australian general population and to identify the sociodemographic factors associated with the disease.
Participants, recruited through a database between July and August of 2017, completed a survey with 50 questions regarding demographics, health service utilization (including complementary medicine), health status, health literacy, and health communication.
Among the participants, 652 were women of reproductive age (ages 18-49) and 3.4 percent of them (22 women) had been diagnosed with endometriosis in the last three years.
A prevalence of 3.4 percent is in agreement with previous studies focusing on endometriosis in Australia (the Australian longitudinal study on Women’s Health survey), although it is lower than the estimated Global Burden of Disease Study (4.8 percent).
“Based on extrapolation of the findings, this represents approximately 276,144 women in Australia,” researchers stated. “The prevalence reported in our study being lower than previous estimations may be due to undiagnosed endometriosis and lack of policy-maker awareness.”
The analysis showed no statistically significant association between sociodemographic factors — marital status, education, employment, and health care — and women with endometriosis or those in the general population. The only exception was for participants’ financial status, although the link was poor.
This data “suggests that endometriosis affects women indiscriminately and with no sociodemographic factors influencing prevalence,” they said.
Women self-reporting a diagnosis of endometriosis were 40–49 years old, with a higher proportion living in South Australia (18.2 percent) compared to women in the general population (8.4 percent).
Overall, this study “highlights endometriosis as a significant health issue among Australian women,” researchers said.
“Future research should focus on the challenges associated with the diagnosis of endometriosis, including the development of a more efficient method for diagnosis and the relevant social implications,” they concluded.