People often report feeling alone and isolated when they suffer from bladder or bowel leakage, so it may come as a surprise to discover that more than a third of adults are affected.
Of the 38%, about a third claim to be currently afflicted, and the remaining two-thirds admit to experiencing incontinence in the past.
Depending on the cohort, the numbers can be even higher. The report, titled ‘Continence Health in Australia. A Snapshot.’ and dated June 2019, cites the prevalence of those experiencing or having experienced incontinence as follows:
- People living in aged residential care 71%
- Women who’ve given birth 61%
- People with arthritis 57%
- Men with prostate issues 54%
- People with mental health issues 53%
- People with a disability 47%
- People with diabetes 46%
Of those currently experiencing incontinence, 74% are female, and half are aged between 40 and 59.
What is incontinence?
Incontinence is the involuntary leakage from the bladder or bowel.
It’s important to appreciate that incontinence isn’t a stand-alone condition, but always the symptom of an underlying cause. You can find out more about the causes and treatments on the TENA website, again for both women and men
Isn’t incontinence just a normal part of ageing or being a woman?
Absolutely not. Something can usually be done to improve or even resolve incontinence, and there are always practical ways to manage it, reducing the impact on everyday life.
Unfortunately, it’s that accepting attitude and the continuing stigma surrounding incontinence that supports the report’s finding where 63% of people thought the condition was inevitable following the birth of a baby and 48% believe it’s just a normal part of ageing.
Disturbingly, the report also found that 34% of people said they wouldn’t discuss the issue with family or friends and 62% of those who have or have had leakage issues have not discussed it with their doctor or other health care professional.
These numbers highlight the significant stigma and shame that continues to surround this widespread ailment.
Over the years, consumers in TENA focus groups have told us that their incontinence makes them feel:
- Old, as the condition has long been mythologised as exclusively the domain of elderly women
- Unattractive, including sexually
- And that it erodes their sense of femininity or masculinity, confidence and self-esteem
The findings of this new report would support this, with:
- 39% feeling less confident to leave the house
- 32% admitting it has affected their mental health or wellbeing
- 25% believing the condition has impacted their relationship with family and friends
It’s not hard to understand why this is the case. Again, drawing on qualitative consumer research, we know people have a fear of being ‘found out’, and their worst nightmare is to leave a wet mark on a chair or to smell of urine. And it’s these fears that cause them to decline social invitations, withdraw from intimate relationships and avoid being in close proximity to anyone – often without discussion or explanation, leaving others feeling rejected and hurt.
The tragedy of this far-too-common situation is that it is entirely unnecessary.
Treatment for incontinence
There are varying treatments available for incontinence, depending on the cause, many of which are non-invasive and lifestyle based.
For example, this research paper from the US found that weight loss of just 5-10% among women who were obese, reduced the number of weekly incontinence episodes by more than 50%.
Pelvic floor exercises – for both men and women – to strengthen the muscle can also have a dramatic effect. This muscle, which is like a sling connected to your pubic bone at the front and your coccyx at the back, contracts and pulls up when you need to ‘hold on’, so it makes sense that if it’s stronger, bladder and bowel control is improved.
Are all cases of incontinence curable?
Unfortunately, no. If the underlying cause is one of mobility, disability, permanent injury, extreme age or chronic disease that can’t be improved, it’s likely that the incontinence will also persist. However, there are ways to reduce the impact and manage it.
There are many available products to effectively manage incontinence
TENA has an extensive range of disposable products to suit those with permanent and temporary incontinence. All have odour-control technology and contain super-absorbent polymers (SAP) that rapidly draw in and trap fluid, keeping you dry and comfortable.
If your incontinence is heavy, or if you’re caring for someone who has little or no control of their bowel and bladder, there’s a range of specialist products, designed especially to manage this and even includes bed or furniture protectors and skin care.
So, whatever the extent of the incontinence you’re managing, there are products that will allow you to get on with your daily activities in comfort, and with discretion and dignity.
It’s all in our attitude
It is remarkable that in this day and age when society has become so accepting and embracing of all our differences, that incontinence continues to be such a taboo subject.
Like menstrual periods, there is often an innate desire to keep the experience private, but that hasn’t stop the (slow) destigmatisation of that bodily function experienced by women all over the world. In fact, the incidence of incontinence revealed by this new study would suggest that the prevalence is not dissimilar.
As a society, we need to recognise and accept that many people have incontinence because it’s only through this acceptance that suffers will be more inclined to access the education on treatment and management that they need to reduce the negative effect it currently has on their lives.
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.