A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) puts the spotlight on the issue of incontinence, its associated costs, and the impact on carers.
According to the report, Australian incontinence data analysis and development, an estimated 545,000 people, or 2.8% of the Australian adult population, experience severe incontinence, while another 723,100 experience moderate urinary incontinence.
'Both monetary and non-monetary costs are high and the impact on carers is considerable,' said Dr Samantha Bricknell of the AIHW's Functioning and Disability Unit.
'Almost 60% of primary carers spent 40 hours or more a week actively caring for or supervising a person with incontinence,' she said.
Around 44% of primary carers reported a change in their physical or emotional wellbeing since taking on the caring role, compared to 27% of carers who did not usually assist in managing incontinence. A similar percentage of carers frequently felt worried or depressed.
Mr John Goss of the AIHW's Summary Measures Unit said financial costs associated with incontinence are also high.
'The estimated costs of incontinence in Australia in 2003 totalled $1.5 billion, while a wide range of personal costs such as laundry, clothing and time are generally not captured,' Mr Goss said.
By 2030-31, total expenditure on incontinence is projected to increase by 201%, with the greatest increase in residential aged care - a projected expenditure increase of 220% by 2030-31.
In 2003 an estimated 117,700 healthy life years were lost due to incontinence, and the burden was particularly apparent for people aged 75 years and over.
'Incontinence is responsible for around one-fifth of healthy life lost for this age group, similar to dementia and hearing and vision impairments,' Mr Goss said.
The burden of incontinence is expected to increase by 110% between 2003 and 2031, with 53% of the increase occurring in the 85 years and older population, 27% in the 70-84 years population and 20% for those under 70 years.