The gut-brain connection refers to the bidirectional communication pathway between the brain and gastrointestinal (GI) system. Recent epidemiological research has suggested incidence rates of Disorders of Gut Brain Interaction (DGBI) in emerging adults are increasing. The goal of the study was to investigate the associations between the latent variables of GI health, psychological distress, and impairment in general functioning (disability) across two time points. Although the gut-brain connection has been established, research on its directionality and association with functioning in emerging adults remains an understudied area. A repeated measures design was used to collect data via an online survey in emerging adults (N = 861). Measurement equivalence across time was established for each of the three latent variables. A cross-lagged panel model (CLPM) was specified to explore reciprocal and directional influences. Three significant cross-lagged paths were found. Higher levels of psychological distress at Time 1 predicted higher GI symptoms at Time 2. This cross-lagged effect lends preliminary evidence gastrointestinal symptoms may be a consequence of psychological distress in emerging adults. There was a significant cross-lagged effect between GI symptoms at Time 1 and disability at Time 2. A significant cross-lagged pathway from disability to distress was also found. The cross-lagged design and significant cross-lagged paths offer stronger causal inferences than the traditional cross-sectional design that is used to study the effects of GI symptoms. This study provides psychometric evidence for the use of a latent construct of GI health using the PROMIS-GI® subscales. Findings infer a directional pathway between the brain and the gut rather than a bidirectional network. This signaling seems to be stronger from the brain to the gut than the gut to the brain in emerging adults. Findings highlight the importance of the emerging field of psychogastroenterology.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Psychology; Clinical Psychology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Ross, Emily, "The Reciprocal Effect of Gastrointestinal Health on Psychological Distress and Disability in Emerging Adults" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 752.