Short-term variability of self report of incontinence in older persons

N. M. Resnick, Laurel A Beckett, L. G. Branch, P. A. Scherr, T. Wetle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Objective: Virtually all estimates of the prevalence and incidence of incontinence in the community rely on self-reported continence status. The goal of this study was to assess the reliability of this measure in older adults. Design: Telephone interviews administered approximately 2 weeks apart. Setting: Community-based congregate living facility. Participants: A convenience sample of approximately 100 residents was contacted by letter; 48 of 51 (94%) who indicated their willingness to participate were interviewed. They included eight men and 40 women >70 years old (79% >80 years old), virtually all of whom were independent in basic ADLs and 83% of whom reported their health as good or excellent. Measurement: Responses to a structured questionnaire. Main Results: The prevalence of urinary incontinence was 40% at baseline and 44% on re-interview; the prevalence of fecal incontinence was 17% on both occasions. All Spearman correlations for items related to urinary incontinence characteristics were between .80 and .86, except for a question related to stress incontinence (r = .62); correlations for fecal incontinence were .67-.69. Conclusion: Prevalence estimates of incontinence are stable over a 2-week period. However, the variability of individual responses, while relatively low, was within the range previously reported for estimates of incidence and remission rates of incontinence in community-dwelling elderly. This, variability should be taken into consideration when interpreting previous studies and designing future ones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-207
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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