BackgroundAlthough the prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is reported to have reached a plateau in Western countries, it is increasing in Asia. The etiology of IBD is still under investigation. We performed an epidemiological study to clarify the characteristics of IBD in Japan, focusing on patients’ family history.MethodsWe obtained clinical data on ulcerative colitis (UC) (46,114 cases) and Crohn’s disease (CD) (11,305 cases) in 2007 from an electronic database maintained under the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s nationwide registry system, and analyzed the differences in disease characteristics between patients with IBD who had a family history of the disease and those who did not.ResultsA total of 2.7% of the patients with UC and 2.6% of those with CD had a family history. The present age and age at disease onset were lower among the patients with UC who had a family history than among those without (present age: p < 0.001; age at disease onset: p < 0.001; Mann–Whitney U-test), but no similar trend was observed in the patients with CD. Disease severity was worse among both the UC and CD patients with a family history. The clinical course of patients with UC was not affected by family history. Levels of independence in daily life were associated with family history among CD patients, whereas age was associated with levels of independence in daily life among UC patients.ConclusionDisease characteristics of IBD vary in some aspects according to the presence or absence of a family history.