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23% of men, 17% of women experience fecal incontinence: survey

This March 16, 2016 file photo shows a public toilet at JR Nishi-Kujo Station in Osaka. (Mainichi)

One in five adults have experienced light fecal incontinence and one in three women over the age of 40 have experienced urinary incontinence, a major manufacturer of health and household cleaning products, Unicharm Corp., found in a February survey.

    Many manufacturing companies along with Unicharm are developing products to meet the demand of these customers. However, those suffering from fecal incontinence stemming from a weakness in the pelvic floor muscle often feel strongly that they "want to keep the problem to themselves" and as a result, the social awareness of the problem has been extremely low.

    The survey was conducted online targeting 20,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 79. Roughly 20 percent of respondents, 3,920 people, said "yes" to the question: "Have you experienced fecal incontinence in the last six months?"

    When broken down by sex, 22.7 percent of men and 16.5 percent of women answered in the affirmative, bringing the figure closer to one in four men having experienced fecal incontinence. Looking at the result by age, 21.3 percent of those in their 20s and 30s, 19.3 percent in their 40s and 50s, and 18.4 percent of people in their 60s and 70s reported having experienced the trouble. While there was no large difference between age groups, it revealed a trend in which there is a slightly higher occurrence among young adults.

    When asked about how often the participants in the survey experienced incontinence, a majority of 79.3 percent responded "less than once a week." Those who answered "more than once a week" came in at 20.7 percent.

    The majority of those surveyed, 52.6 percent, reported that they "don't do anything in particular" to deal with these mishaps. On the other hand, the other 47.4 percent reported that they did. The most common method of dealing with them was using tissue paper at 18.6 percent, while 1.8 percent reported using incontinence pads, and 0.9 percent using incontinence pants.

    According to Unicharm, there are three main types of fecal incontinence. The first type occurs "passively" due to a weakening in the internal sphincter muscle which allows feces to pass without the individual realizing it. The second stems from a weakening in the external sphincter muscle, rendering an individual unable to get to the toilet in time even though they feel the "urge" to go. The final "stress incontinence" may occur when lifting heavy objects, coughing or sneezing. In all three cases, the resulting accident is enough to soil undergarments.

    Asked about the causes which might have triggered the fecal incontinence, the majority of respondents answered that they experienced the problem when they "couldn't make it to the toilet after a sudden urge to go" or "passing of gas." In many cases, the occurrence of incontinence is random, and the company speculates that once it happens, many people may grow uneasy and begin to worry when and where it will happen next.

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