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Prevalence and economic impact of incontinence in Australia: Deloitte Access Economics 2010

Executive Summary

In 2010, there are around 4.2 million Australians aged 15 years and over living in the community with urinary incontinence, and 1.3 million with faecal incontinence. In total, 4.6 million people or 21% of the community population have urinary or faecal incontinence, or both. The prevalence rate is much higher in the Residential Aged Care (RAC) population, where 70.9% or almost 129,000 residents have urinary or faecal incontinence (or both).

The prevalence of incontinence is known to increase with age, more than half of individuals are aged 50 years and above. Women are more likely to have incontinence, in fact, 80% of those with urinary incontinence in the community are women. Moreover, over half of women living in the community with incontinence are aged under 50 years – some 1.7 million women.

It is projected the number of people (aged 15 years and above) with urinary incontinence living in the community will rise to 5.6 million in 2030 and 1.8 million with faecal incontinence (6.2 million with any incontinence). The number of individuals in RAC with incontinence is expected to rise to over 250,000. The projected rise in prevalence reflects demographic ageing, and assumes a policy-neutral environment. The rise in the number of Australians with incontinence is depicted in Chart i.

Chart on prevalence of incontinence


In 2010, the total financial cost of incontinence (excluding burden of disease) is estimated to be $42.9 billion, or approximately $9,014 per person with incontinence.

  • In 2010, total health system expenditure on incontinence in the Australian population is estimated at $271 million or $57 per person with incontinence. This is projected to rise to $450 million by 2020. 

  • Productivity losses of those with incontinence are estimated to be approximately $34.1 billion in 2010 due to lower than average employment rates (adjusted for age) of those with incontinence. Productivity losses of family and friends who care for people with incontinence on an unpaid basis are around $2.7 billion. This reflects the opportunity cost of informal carers’ time. 

  • The costs of formal care and aids are approximately $1.96 billion in 2010. 

  • Deadweight losses (the economic cost associated with administering the taxation and transfer system and which also arises because of distortions to behaviour) are estimated to be $3.8 billion in 2010. 
  • The burden of disease that results from incontinence was estimated using Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs), which reflects detriment to health. 

  • In 2010, incontinence is associated with almost 140,108 DALYs or years of life lived with disability. 

  • The monetary value of the burden of disease in 2010 is $23.8 billion. If this is added to the financial costs, the overall cost of incontinence is $66.7 billion in 2010, or approximately $14,014 per person with incontinence.

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