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1 in 4 elementary schoolchildren in Japan suspected of experiencing constipation: study

This file photo shows a toilet. (Mainichi)

KOBE -- One out of four elementary school students in Japan is suspected of suffering from constipation, according to a rare survey on bowel movements among schoolchildren by a nonprofit organization.

    The Tokyo-based group Japan Toilet Labo sent out survey forms to record one's bowel movements for 10 days -- how many times they went and consistency of stool, among other questions -- to some 10,000 elementary school students across Japan from Nov. 10 to 19. The group compiled results from 5,678 children who filled out all the entries.

    The results showed that 24.6% had hard, rabbit dropping-like stool at least twice during the 10-day period. By gender, 27.4% of girls had such stool consistency while the figure was 21.7% among boys. According to a guideline provided by the Japanese Society for Pediatric Neurogastroenterology and other sources, if a person has hard stool or feels pain when defecating for at least once a week over a period of two months, they are considered to have chronic constipation. Based on this, Japan Toile Labo concluded that those who said they had hard stool could be suffering from constipation. Meanwhile, 5.7% of children in the survey marked "0 to 3 days" when asked about the number of days they had bowel movements during the 10-day period -- a sign that they could be constipated.

    Looking at the results, the research group called the situation "serious" and is urging parents and guardians to pay attention to not only their children's diet and whether they're exercising, but also to their bowel movements.

    Japan Toilet Labo representative Atsushi Kato points out that while many homes have Western-style toilets, about 40% of elementary schools have Japanese-style squat toilets. "Children are not used to using the squat types and they tend to hold it in even if they want to go (at school)," he said. Kato added that factors such as a lack of sleep and stress from school life could also be contributing to children's constipation.

    "When you continue to experience constipation, you can get irritated, which hinders your focus on studying. We need to teach children the importance of bowel movements for them to lead healthy lifestyles," Kato commented.

    (Japanese original by Kwanghoon Han, Kobe Bureau)

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