The study is authored by Professor John McCallum. He is also Victoria University's Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor - Education Services. The report is titled: 'Risks and Burdens of Incontinence in an Older Community'. It was released today at the 16th National Conference on Incontinence at Surfers Paradise.
Says Professor McCallum: "Incontinence is responsible for about one-fifth of healthy years of life lost after the age of 75 and it is a terrible burden on the individual and the family.
"This is the same impact on healthy years lost as dementia and combined sight and hearing loss - so incontinence is a big issue for Australia's elderly and it does not receive the attention it deserves. There is a taboo about incontinence which we have removed in our discussions of dementia", he adds.
The study observed that people aged over 60 and over a 14-year follow-up, possessed a 66 per cent higher chance of nursing home admission if they were incontinent, than when the study begun. It also indicated that women had a higher prevalence of incontinence at all ages with the rates increasing rapidly in old age.
"Having children is a known risk factor for younger women but the process appears to be different in old age. Either having children or the number of children was not a significant risk in the study.
"We may have to think about different processes for the development of late life incontinence like the predisposition of having had genitor-urinary disease and some of the 'frailty' factors associated with old age.
"Depression and disability are associated with incontinence but they don't predict it in the longitudinal study - so they are more consequences than the causes of the condition", Professor McCallum observed.
Other findings were that men used more services of all kinds than incontinent women. This was particularly true if they lived on their own. In addition, incontinence was linked with substantially longer hospital stays.
Professor McCallum says: "It is high time that incontinence received as much attention as some of the other 'glamour' diseases of ageing. Both its prevalence and its burdens surely deserve this. We need to make serious sense of late life incontinence and do something about preventing it and reducing its impacts."