Patients with non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP) (n = 387) and cardiac chest pain (CCP) (n = 93) were compared with community controls (n = 81), using a symptom questionnaire that assessed the presence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and oesophageal dysfunction and chest pain characteristics. A significantly (p < 0.05) increased prevalence of symptoms compatible with IBS occurred in NCCP patients when compared with those with CCP and with controls. Dysphagia was more frequent in both those with non-cardiac and cardiac chest pain than in controls; this was not apparent, however, when patients with concomitant IBS were excluded. The presence of oesophageal or gastrointestinal symptoms did not enable discrimination with regard to the chest pain characteristics. We conclude that unselected referred patients with documented NCCP are more likely to have IBS and that the presence of oesophageal symptoms such as dysphagia may merely reflect the spectrum of the 'irritable gut'.