Urinary incontinence in elderly women: findings from the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study

Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Aug;104(2):301-7. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000133482.20685.d1.


Objective: To estimate the prevalence of and risk factors for stress and urge incontinence in a biracial sample of well-functioning older women.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of 1,584 white and black women, aged 70-79 years, enrolled in a longitudinal cohort study. Participants were asked about incontinence, medical problems, and demographic and reproductive characteristics and underwent physical measurements. Using multivariable logistic regression, we compared women reporting at least weekly incontinence with those without incontinence.

Results: Overall, 21% reported incontinence at least weekly. Of these, 42% reported predominantly urge incontinence, and 40% reported stress. Nearly twice as many white women as black women reported weekly incontinence (27% versus 14%, P <.001). Factors associated with urge incontinence included white race (odds ratio [OR] 3.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.0-4.8), diabetes treated with insulin (OR 3.5, 95% CI 1.6-7.9), depressive symptoms (OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.4-5.3), current oral estrogen use (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.1-2.6), arthritis (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.1-2.6), and decreased physical performance (OR 1.6 per point on 0-4 scale, 95% CI 1.1-2.3). Factors associated with stress incontinence were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (OR 5.6, 95% CI 1.3-23.2), white race (OR 4.1, 95% CI 2.5-6.7), current oral estrogen use (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.3-3.1), arthritis (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.0-2.4), and high body mass index (OR 1.3 per 5 kg/m2, 95% CI 1.1-1.6).

Conclusion: Urinary incontinence is highly prevalent, even in well-functioning older women, whites in particular. Many risk factors differ for stress and urge incontinence, suggesting differing etiologies and prevention strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Female
  • Health Services for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Tennessee / epidemiology
  • Urinary Incontinence, Stress / epidemiology*
  • Urinary Incontinence, Stress / etiology*
  • White People
  • Women's Health