Prevalence correlates and impact of fecal incontinence among older women

Magnus Halland, Natasha A. Koloski, Michael Jones, Julie Byles, Pauline Chiarelli, Peta Forder, M. Biostat, Nicholas J. Talley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Fecal incontinence is a common problem that has been associated with anatomic, physiological, and medical conditions. There are very few data on the factors associated with fecal incontinence in elderly women. Objectives: We aimed to determine the factors associated with fecal incontinence via a population-based survey in a large cohort of elderly Australian women. Design and Setting: Data from a large longitudinal population-based study of elderly Australian women aged 82 to 87 years were analyzed. Patients: Participants were 5560 women (aged 82-87 years) who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health; 4815 women responded to questions relating to fecal incontinence. Main Outcome Measures: Fecal incontinence was defined as leakage of liquid and/or solid stool at least once per month over the past 12 months. Self-reported medical conditions and lifestyle factors as well as demographic factors were recorded. Results: The prevalence of fecal incontinence was 10.4% (95% CI, 9.6-11.3) (n = 510). The prevalence was significantly higher among institutional- versus community-dwelling women (14.1% vs 9.7%; p = 0.0002). Univariately, lifestyle factors including fruit intake and fluid intake, along with a range of comorbidities, were associated. However, independent factors for fecal incontinence among communitydwelling women included diabetes mellitus (OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.14-2.01; p = 0.004), depression (OR, 1.84; 95% CI, 1.30-2.62; p = 0.001), urinary incontinence (OR, 2.29; 95% CI, 1.83-2.86; p < 0.0001), and osteoarthritis (OR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.57-0.94; p = 0.013). Among institutional-dwelling women, however, we found urinary incontinence (OR, 4.43; 95% CI, 2.83-6.93; p < 0.0001) and poorer general health (OR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.97-0.99; p = 0.003) to be independently associated. Limitations: This is a cross-sectional study, which prevents making conclusions about the cause and effect of observed correlations. Conclusions: The independent factors associated with fecal incontinence in this population do not appear readily modifiable, and many previously identified risk factors may not be important in the elderly women with fecal incontinence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1080-1086
Number of pages7
JournalDiseases of the colon and rectum
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Cohort study
  • Elderly women
  • Epidemiology
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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