This prank taught me a lesson. I'm a healthcare provider and was talking to my friends who are known to play with words. While describing a case I said, "Eight out of ten suffered from diarrhea." My friend jumped in between and said "That means those two enjoyed it!"

  • Whilst it's OK for you to answer your own question on ELL, you need to phrase your question as a real question to fit in with the format. See this blog post by Jeff Atwood (the founder of StackExchange) for more
    – Matt
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 7:37
  • 3
    In the context of medicine, it is absolutely fine and grammatical to say you suffer from a condition, whether or not it causes you any real "suffering" (e.g. "my sister suffers from a mild nut allergy" / "my brother suffers from eczema"). The pun is because suffer has multiple meanings. One being to endure (such as a medical condition) in your case, and another being "to feel great pain and/or discomfort". Ignore the jeering. Your usage "Eight out of ten patients who ate the mouldy kitkat suffered from diarrhea" is perfectly fine and idiomatic English free from real ambiguity.
    – Matt
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 7:41
  • @Matt. Okay, I take care Matt. I couldn't find a better way to put this. You may, however, change and edit it to the mark.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 9:22
  • Maulik, if you've ever experienced diarrhoea, you'll know that suffer is definitely a word that is appropriate to use, when talking about it. Depending on the circumstances, suffer can even be a way of downplaying the experience!
    – Tristan
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 20:00

2 Answers 2


The wording you used is commonly seen in literature, and there was nothing wrong with your original phrasing. While your friends drew attention to one of the humorous nuances of English, you need not "always" use the word affected instead of the word suffered.

NOAD defines suffer as:

verb [ trans. ] experience or be subjected to (something bad or unpleasant)
verb [ intrans. ] (suffer from) be affected by or subject to (an illness or ailment) : his daughter suffered from agoraphobia

It's clear from this definition that you used the word properly, despite the jab from your colleagues. Other examples readily found on the internet:

Eight out of 10 suffer from allergies with a wide variety of causes.

Even though golf is seen as a low risk sport, about 3 out of 10 suffer from an overuse injury at some point.

“Among the patients I see, two out of 10 suffer from halitophobia. Women and children are more prone to this disorder,” said Dr Sunita Gupta, head, oral medicine, Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences.

Every 9 women out of 10 suffer from this [premenstrual] syndrome but this problem is more common in females between the ages of 20 to 30.

Clearly, none of the people referenced in the statistics cited by these articles are enjoying their allergies, injuries, halitophobia, or PMS symptoms.

  • Sure...I cannot always use 'affected' instead of the word 'suffered'. I know this very well. The common most example is: He's suffering from a lot of pain. cannot be He's affected by a lot of pain.. That's why I put the title 'in the case of diarrhea'. Thank you for the insight anyway.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 11:31
  • @Maulk - Your answer to your own question mentions 'always': I must always use the word 'affected' while describing the case of diarrhea. Not so, even when confined to the context of diarrhea, or talking about 8 out of 10.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 13:45
  • @MaulikV - One other question: Why can't you say, "He's affected by a lot of pain." That seems acceptable to me. And to Michigan State. And the ITHS, too. Even rock star Ray Davies.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 15:50

You can suffer something which means get adversely affected by it.

In this case,

Eight out of ten suffered diarrhea

It doesn't leave wiggle room for malicious ambiguity.

  • +1, but: judging by Ngram Viewer, suffered from appears to be roughly five times more common than suffered in this context. (Note that I have turned smoothing up as high as it can possibly go, as there is a lot of year-to-year noise in this graph. You might also look at the raw data without smoothing.)
    – user230
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 1:34
  • @snailboat: yes, but both are accepted and one is unambiguous :)
    – SF.
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 1:47
  • Oh, yes. That's why I gave you the plus one :-) Although I personally would use the more common choice anyway--I think it sounds better!
    – user230
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 5:24
  • @snailboat: OTOH "suffered a case of" and "suffered from a case of" are nearly equal.
    – SF.
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 14:20

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