Faecal Incontinence (FI) is a common debilitating condition that, significantly decreases health-related quality of life (HRQoL). However, there is uncertainty about its prevalence and the factors that modulate the relationship between FI and HRQoL, which reduces the efficiency and effectiveness of clinical and public-health interventions.
To assess the prevalence of FI, its risk factors, and determine which factors influence the FI - HRQoL relationship.
Data was taken from the 2004 representative cross-sectional population South Australian Health Omnibus, n = 3015 men and women aged 15 and over. The main outcome measures were the prevalence and severity of FI, urinary incontinence (UI), other comorbidities and various demographic variables. The SF-36v2 Quality of Life questionnaire was also administered.
Prevalence of FI was found to be 1.7% (95% CI: 1.3-2.2%). Univariate analysis found increased reporting in females, those aged 55 and over, separated/divorced, with annual household income < $A30,000 and economically inactive, to be associated with increased reporting. Comorbid UI, depression and obesity also conferred greater risk. HRQoL was decreased in FI compared to those without. Respondents aged over 55 years, being economically inactive and having comorbid depression were associated with significantly more negative HRQoL scores (p < 0.05). Severity of symptoms, gender, annual income and comorbid UI were not associated with any significant difference in HRQoL. Nor were marital status, education status, country of birth, area of residence, comorbid diabetes or Body Mass Index.
FI results in a decreased HRQoL, most extreme with increased age, unemployment and those with comorbid depression. Future research is needed to further explore and validate these relationships in order to guide public health interventions and resource allocation.