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CDC Reports More Than Half of Older Americans Experience Incontinence

June 26, 2014 2 min read

More than 50 percent of noninstitutionalized adults aged 65 and over suffer from incontinence, according to a new CDC report.

Data was taken from various surveys, including the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the 2010 National Survey of Residential Care Facilities (NSRCF). Patients in the study came from nursing homes, residential care facilities, home health care and hospice agencies or were noninstitutionalized. Different definitions were used for incontinence for these different populations, so researchers could not compare the results against each other.

However, they did find that incontinence, both bladder and fecal, is a common issue that needs to be addressed.

Some results include:

Noninstitutionalized population:

  • Nearly 51 percent of people aged 65 and older living at home reported urinary and/or bowel incontinence.
  • About 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men said they suffered from urinary incontinence.
  • Compared to black women, white women were almost twice as likely to experience bladder incontinence.

People who received home health care:

  • No matter where a patient lived, 45 percent of those getting home health care reported loss of bladder and/or bowel control.
  • Women were nearly twice as likely to have bladder control problems as men.
  • Older people (85 and over) had more difficulty controlling their bowels compared to younger people (65-75 years old).

Hospice care patients:

  • No matter where a patient lived, 62.1 percent reported having trouble controlling their bladder and/or bowels.
  • Older women (85 and older) were twice as likely to have more difficulty controlling their bladder compared to women aged 65-74 years old.

Nursing home residents:

  • Nearly half of short-term residents and three-quarters of long-term residents were not completely continent two weeks prior to the interview.
  • Black residents were more likely to report difficulty with bladder and bowel control compared to white or Hispanic residents.

According to the report, incontinence in older people is associated with multiple factors, including diabetes, stroke, and mobility issues. Urinary incontinence can be caused by urinary tract infections and age-related problems dealing with the lower urinary tract. Bowel incontinence can be caused by chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation, diabetes, neurological disorders, cognitive impairment and mobility issues.

“Bladder and bowel incontinence is a highly prevalent disease that has emotional, health, social and economic impacts in the daily life of our elderly population in the U.S.,” said Dr. Farzeen Firoozi, a urologist at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.

The cost of urinary incontinence among American adults in 2000 was estimated at $19.5 billion. More than half of these costs went towards materials used for managing incontinence, such as incontinence pads and laundry. In 2010, the average annual cost for fecal incontinence was estimated at $4,110 per person.


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