Objective: To determine the prevalence of and characteristics associated with anal incontinence in the general community.
Setting: Community survey.
Participants: The population of the state of Wisconsin sampled in the Wisconsin Family Health Survey. Subjects were identified by random digit dialing with telephone interview. The individual within each household identified as most knowledgeable about the health status of all other members of the household was asked about the health status of each member of the household. Approximately 200 households were surveyed each month.
Main outcome measures: The presence of anal incontinence to solid or liquid feces or gas, who suffered from it, the frequency of anal incontinence, and how the incontinent person coped with it.
Results: A total of 2570 households comprising 6959 individuals were surveyed, and 153 individuals were reported to have anal incontinence, representing 2.2% of the population (95% confidence interval [Cl], +/- 0.3%). Thirty percent of the incontinent subjects were older than 65 years, and 63% were women. Of those with anal incontinence, 36% were incontinent to solid feces, 54% to liquid feces, and 60% to gas. In a multivariate analysis, independent associations of the following risk factors with anal incontinence were found: female sex (odds ratio [OR], 1.5; Cl, 1.1 to 2.1), age (continuously adjusted) (OR, 1.01; Cl, 1.01 to 1.02), physical limitations (OR, 1.8; Cl, 1.2 to 2.7), and poor general health (OR, 1.6; Cl, 1.4 to 1.9).
Conclusions: Anal incontinence was reported in 2.2% of the general population. Independent risk factors for incontinence include female sex, advancing age, poor general health, and physical limitations.