Urinary incontinence affects senior citizens’ quality of life to a greater degree than diabetes, arthritis and many other chronic conditions, according to a study by AARP Services, Inc., and UnitedHealthcare. The research appears in the June issue of Quality of Life Research.
Researchers surveyed 15,000 enrollees in AARP Medicare Supplement plans insured by UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company in 10 states. Respondents were found to have urinary incontinence based on their response to a question about leaking urine during the last six months.
Out of 5,000 respondents, more than 35 percent were found to be incontinent and, according to the study findings, the condition had a significant impact on their well-being and quality of life.
The surveys helped to quantify respondents’ average physical component scores and mental component scores, measures commonly used to evaluate health-related quality of life, AARP said. As a result, researchers 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.
“We have learned from this study that there are more ways we can help patients who suffer from urinary incontinence, as according to the data, only about half of those with urinary incontinence said they have spoken to their doctor about the problem, and only about one in three of them have received treatment for it,” said Dr. Charlotte S. Yeh, chief medical officer, AARP Services, in a release.
This is the first in a series of research studies from the Health Care Transformation Diversity Initiative, which was created to evaluate the presence and nature of disparities in health care in AARP members who purchase Medicare Supplement plans insured by UnitedHealthcare.