In an effort to better understand adult incontinence and the risk factors associated with it, the rising levels of obesity have been the subject of numerous medical studies looking into the correlation between excess weight and urinary incontinence.
When it comes to the proportion of overweight and obese people in the population, many developed countries remain in to lead, with further increases projected in the coming years. The US, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany ranked among the top twenty countries for the proportion of obese population in 2015. However, many developing regions have been posting increasingly alarming statistics in terms of the number of overweight and obese men and women, as lifestyles and eating habits continue to change. Venezuela, Mexico and Chile – already in the top five for the proportion of obese population – continue to see an upward trend. In China, the proportion of the population classified as obese increased from 6.1% in 2010 to 9.2% in 2015, while the proportion of overweight people went from 30.0% to 36.2% over the same period of time. In Brazil, the obese population reached 21.3% in 2015, up from 16.2% in 2010, while the proportion of overweight people went up from 31.5% to 32.2%. In Russia, the level of obesity stood at 27.0% in 2015, up from 25.2% in 2010. Moreover, by 2020, the proportion of obese people in China is forecast to reach 12.2%, in Brazil 25.5%, and in Russia 28.3%.
Obese population, top 20 countries by % of population aged 15+, 2015/2020
Source: Euromonitor International
Note: Obese Population (BMI 30kg/Sq m or More): Euromonitor International from WHO/OECD
Aside from being a risk factor for a number of diseases, medical research also clearly demonstrated a relationship between being overweight and obese and the increased incidences of incontinence, in particular stress incontinence and mixed incontinence. For instance, according to the Health Omnibus Survey conducted in 2001 in South Australia, respondents classified as overweight and obese (based on BMI index) showed a significantly higher prevalence of urinary incontinence than those with a normal BMI index. A number of studies were also conducted using other measurements (such as waist circumference in Townsend MK, Curhan GC, Resnick NM, Grodstein F (2008) BMI, waist circumference, and incident urinary incontinence in older women) to link increase in weight to increased prevalence of urinary incontinence. Furthermore, obesity is considered to be the most important risk factor for daily urinary incontinence compared to any other factors, according to the studies and the articles released by, for instance, News Medical (Obesity and Urinary Incontinence by Dr Ananya Mandal, MD).
The expected further rise in the numbers of overweight and obese men and women globally is likely to contribute further to the rise in the number of adults experiencing problems with urinary incontinence. Governments and healthcare experts seek to tackle the issue of obesity through improved health, fitness and nutrition education as well as continence programmes to help those already affected by the urinary incontinence. Nonetheless, it is likely that the demand in retail for adult incontinence products will be spurred by the continuing upward trajectory in the number of overweight and obese people. With the mounting cost pressures on healthcare systems, continence programmes are likely to increasingly offer only limited relief and push many consumers to look for incontinence management in traditional methods (especially low-income consumers in developing regions) and for products available in retail.
As stress and mixed incontinence appear to have the strongest link to excess weight, product development, product awareness and marketing should take these types of incontinence into account while addressing the needs of the overweight consumer. It is also important to ensure sufficient supplies of products in large sizes and suitable for use by overweight and obese incontinence sufferers. Consumer reviews of available adult incontinence products in stores frequently indicate that products in large sizes are hard to find, and some of the incontinence formats are difficult or even impossible to use effectively when a person is obese.