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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001 Jan;56(1):M19-24.

New-onset incontinence and markers of frailty: data from the Hispanic Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, USA.



Urinary incontinence in older adults has many distinct etiologies and is associated with lower self-reported health. However, it is unclear whether the new onset of urinary incontinence marks newly emergent frailty.


Using a longitudinal population-based survey of older Mexican Americans (N = 2660) across five south-western states, this study compared the strength of association between markers of physical frailty such as activities of daily living (ADLs), instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), and performance (timed walk, timed chair rise, and tandem balance) with baseline incontinence (prevalent disease) and new-onset incontinence (incident disease).


We found that 14.1% of the participants (n = 329) were incontinent at baseline (prevalent cases) and 11.6% (n = 208) were newly incontinent 2 years later (incident cases). Controlling for other covariates, prevalent incontinence was only associated with a 60% increased risk of having difficulty walking 8 ft. Incident incontinence was associated with a twofold increased risk of impairment in ADLs and IADLs, and poor performance on all three physical measures.


Incident incontinence is associated with an increased risk of more global functional impairment. Thus, incident disease may be an important early marker for signaling the onset of frailty among persons who become incontinent after the age of 65 years.

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