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Keywords:

  • Ageing;
  • balance;
  • impairment;
  • mobility;
  • urinary incontinence

Objective

To assess the association between functional limitations related to mobility and urinary incontinence (UI) in elderly women.

Design

An observational cross-sectional study.

Setting

Nine ‘balance’ workshops in France.

Population

A total of 1942 community-dwelling women aged 75–85 years, who were invited, based on voter registration lists, to a ‘balance assessment’.

Methods

Mobility and balance test results for incontinent women were compared with those for continent women according to the severity and type of incontinence.

Main outcome measures

Data on UI were collected using a self-administered questionnaire (International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire—Short Form). Motor-related physical abilities were assessed using standardised balance and functional gait tests.

Results

Forty-two per cent of women had involuntary urine leakage, with daily leaks in 57% of them; 24% had stress UI, 31% had urge UI, and 37% had mixed UI. Results for each functional test were poorer for women with UI and the limitation was more pronounced when the incontinence was severe. Multivariate logistic regression analyses showed that balance and gait impairments were significantly and independently associated with urge UI (walking speed, lower versus higher quartile, odds ratio (OR) 2.2; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.4–3.5; walking balance, unable versus able to do four tandem steps (OR 1.6; 95% CI 1.2–2.2) but not with stress UI.

Conclusions

In this large population of older women living at home, there was a strong association between limitation of motor and balance skills and UI, which was proportional to the severity of incontinence and related specifically to urge incontinence. These results offer new perspectives on the prevention and treatment of urge incontinence in elderly women.