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Colorectal Dis. 2011 Aug;13(8):899-905. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1318.2010.02281.x. Epub 2010 Apr 10.

Prevalence of faecal incontinence and analysis of its impact on quality of life and mental health.

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Colorectal Surgery Unit, Department of Surgery, Hospital Universitari del Mar, Barcelona, Spain.



Faecal incontinence is a significant healthcare problem, with an estimated prevalence of up to 5% of the general population. Little is known about its prevalence among patients attending primary care.


A cross-sectional multicentre study was undertaken. Adult patients attending 10 primary health centres were interviewed. Faecal incontinence was defined as involuntary leakage of flatus, liquid or solid stool at least once in the preceding 4 weeks. Health-related and disease-specific quality of life was assessed using the 36-item Short-Form Health Survey and the Fecal Incontinence Quality of Life scale, respectively. Mental health status was assessed using the 28-item General Health Questionnaire. An adjusted multivariate analysis was performed to study the association of faecal incontinence with the presence of altered mental health status.


A total of 518 subjects (mean age 60.3 years) were studied. The prevalence of faecal incontinence was 10.8%. Altered mental health status was found in 51.8% of patients with faecal incontinence and in 30.5% of those without (P = 0.001). Faecal incontinence was a significant independent factor for altered mental health status (odds ratio, 2.088; 95% CI 1.138-3.829; P = 0.017).


The prevalence of faecal incontinence in primary care is high, with a significant impact on quality of life and mental health status.

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