Survey: Incontinence has greater impact on QoL than diabetes, arthritis

July 7, 2011

Americans 65 years of age and older say that urinary incontinence affects their quality of life physically, mentally, and socially to a greater degree than diabetes, arthritis, and many other chronic conditions, according to a recent study.

Americans 65 years of age and older say that urinary incontinence affects their quality of life physically, mentally, and socially to a greater degree than diabetes, arthritis, and many other chronic conditions, according to a recent study.

The study, which was published in Quality of Life Research (2011; 20:723-32), surveyed 15,000 enrollees in AARP Medicare Supplement plans insured by UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co. in 10 states.

Of the more than 5,000 respondents, more than 35% reported having urinary incontinence and, according to the study findings, the condition had a significant impact on their well-being and quality of life. The survey helped to quantify respondents’ average physical and mental component scores. As a result, the authors found that urinary incontinence had a stronger influence on quality of life than did diabetes, arthritis, and some forms of cancer, particularly from a mental health standpoint.

The study also found that women and obese individuals are at greater risk of urinary incontinence and suggested that as baby boomers age, additional research is needed to determine which forms of incontinence are most responsive to prevention, early detection, and treatment opportunities.

"Urinary incontinence is generally thought of as a physical disability. It is clear from this study, however, that urinary incontinence affects quality of life mentally and socially, as well as physically," said co-author Richard J. Migliori, MD, of UnitedHealth Group. "We believe this study highlights an opportunity for the health care system to develop treatment programs that can enhance not only their physical health, but their mental and emotional health as well."