NEW RESEARCH | Risk Factors for Fecal Incontinence in Older Women

Recent research about the risk factors associated with fecal incontinence.


The objectives of this study were to estimate the prevalence of fecal incontinence (FI) in older women and examine associations between potential risk factors and prevalent FI.


We conducted a cross-sectional study of prevalent FI in 64,559 women, aged 62 – 87 years, in the Nurses’ Health Study. Since 1976, participants provided information on health and lifestyle on mailed biennial questionnaires. Data on FI were collected in 2008. Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95 % confidence intervals (CIs) for FI were calculated using logistic regression models.


The reported prevalence of liquid or solid stool incontinence at least monthly increased from 9% in women aged 62 to 64 years to 17 % in women aged 85 to 87 years. Prevalent FI was 50 % less common in black women compared with white women (6 % vs. 12 % , respectively). Other variables associated with increased odds of FI at least monthly were pregnancy, higher body mass index (BMI), lower physical activity, functional limitations, current cigarette smoking, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and neurologic disease. Urinary incontinence (UI) was a strong correlate of FI, with 63 % of women with FI reporting UI at least monthly compared with 45 % of women in the whole study population.


FI is a common condition among older women, and often co-occurs with urinary incontinence. Potentially modifiable risk factors include BMI, physical activity, and cigarette smoking.

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