, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 10-13
Date: 27 Nov 2003

Prevalence of urinary, fecal and double incontinence in the elderly living at home

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of urinary, fecal and double incontinence in the elderly, through a population-based cross-sectional survey. The study included all patients aged 60 and over of nine general practices in the Nijmegen Monitoring Project. Patients living in a home for the elderly were excluded, as well as patients with dementia, patients who were too ill to participate and patients with a catheter. There were 5278 selected patients who received a postal questionnaire. Of these, 88% returned it. Nineteen percent of the respondents had involuntary loss of urine twice a month or more, 6% loss of feces and 3% both. The prevalence of urinary, fecal and double incontinence increased with age in both men and women, and especially in men in the oldest age group. Urinary incontinence was more prevalent in women than in men. The prevalence of fecal incontinence showed no sex differences, but the type of fecal incontinence did differ between men and women. In men loss of mucus was twice as common as in women. Double incontinence was also equally prevalent in men and women, except in the age group 65–74 years. In conclusion, urinary, fecal and double incontinence are common conditions in the community-dwelling population. The prevalence rates increase with age. Urinary incontinence is more prevalent in women. There were no sex differences in the prevalence of fecal incontinence but the type of fecal incontinence was different in men and women.

Editorial Comment: This large population-based survey looked at the prevalence of urinary, fecal, and double incontinence in women and men in the Netherlands. The fact that the authors were able to get an 88% return on their questionnaire demonstrates the utility of having primary care physicians involved in gaining pertinent information from patients. The response rate for specialists attempting such surveys on their own is grossly inferior to what these authors were able to accomplish. Although there was a higher prevalence of urinary incontinence in women, there was no difference between men and women in the prevalence of fecal incontinence. More studies like this are needed to establish prevalence data for pelvic floor dysfunction in general.
An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00192-003-1047-2