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Study: Urinary Incontinence Raises Depression Risk in Older Women

April 01, 2014 2 min read

A new study from the Harvard Medical School in Boston suggests that incontinence may raise the risk of depression in older women. The study was published in the April issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The study included 4,511 women who were enrolled in the population-based Health and Retirement Study cohort. Participants were aged 54 to 65 years at baseline in 1996 and were interviewed every two years until 2010-2011. Researchers focused on the onset of probable depression, work disability and workforce exit due to issues with urinary incontinence.

Lead researcher Kristin J. Hung, MD and her colleagues found that the women with urinary incontinence had a higher risk of depression and work disability. The association between incontinence and workforce exit was not significant.

“Improved diagnosis and management of urinary incontinence may yield significant economic and psychosocial benefits,” the study authors wrote.

If your loved one suffers from urinary incontinence, here are some things you can do to help:

  • Encourage her to see a doctor.This is the most important action you can take. Your loved one is most likely feeling embarrassed, frustrated and unwilling to go to the doctor’s. Urinary incontinence is a treatable condition that is caused by an underlying problem. A doctor can help determine what that problem and from there, begin treatment. Some causes of incontinence included weak pelvic floor muscles, menopause and diabetes.
  • Remind her to use the bathroom. Bladder training is a behavioral technique designed to help increase one’s bladder capacity, reducing the need to constantly use the bathroom and having wetting accidents. A vibrating watch can help give your loved one discreet reminders to use the bathroom based on her bladder journal.
  • Monitor her diet. Did you know that certain foods and drinks can actually trigger your loved one’s bladder? Spicy and citrus foods are among the culprits, as well as alcohol, tea and caffeine. Bladder irritants aren’t the same for everyone, so monitor what she eats to determine what affects your loved one’s incontinence problems.
  • Maintain healthy skin. Personal hygiene is very important when it comes to urinary incontinence. Make sure your loved one applies protective ointment on the perineal area to prevent rashes and skin irritations. Disposable wet wipes work great when changing in public restrooms.
  • Find the right incontinence product. Learn about the different incontinence products available on the market. The absorbent adult briefs and underwear of today are very comfortable and discreet. Make sure that your loved one is wearing the right size and fit – a brief that is too small or too large will leak.

Urinary incontinence can take a toll on a person’s mental and emotional health. By helping your loved one manage her bladder control problems, you can also help her lead an active and independent life, while remaining dry.


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