Global Coalition on Aging Calls for Increased Awareness, More Effective Treatments for Overactive Bladder, a Hidden Barrier to Active Aging for Millions of Older Adults
NEW YORK, NY (21 February 2018) – Today the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) released a new report titled, “Bladder Health and Active Aging: Overcoming Stigma and Innovating Treatments as We Age.” The report highlights the impact bladder health can have on quality of life as one ages and stresses the need for greater awareness of and new, innovative treatment options for overactive bladder (OAB), an increasingly debilitating, yet often unrecognized and under-addressed condition of aging.
“As overactive bladder grows in prevalence among the age 60-plus population, it unfortunately is too often accepted as one of those inevitable parts of aging,” said GCOA CEO Michael W. Hodin, PhD. “We must eliminate the stigma associated with OAB and other conditions of aging and simultaneously encourage innovation in the prevention and treatment of these conditions so that the subtle if profound barriers to active aging, social engagement and workforce participation among older adults are not seen as normal.”
Thirty million Americans are currently living with symptoms of OAB, and while the prevalence of overactive bladder does increase with age, it does not have to be a normal part of the aging process, particularly as therapies and treatments do exist to address it and new innovations are being pursued. Research questions remain, especially regarding the impact of OAB on people over age 60, however data shows that three-quarters of people with OAB find it more difficult to complete daily activities, resulting in decreased physical activity and weight gain because of an inability to exercise. Nearly one-third report feelings of depression and high levels of stress.
For working older adults, OAB also has an impact on their ability to be productive and engaged in their workplaces: 21 percent of people with the condition fear interrupting meetings due to their bladder symptoms, and 5 percent reporting they have left the workforce earlier than planned because of OAB. In the United States alone, that equates to 2.6 million skilled and experienced professionals that have exited the workforce due to OAB. The effects on individuals, families, employers, and communities in the United States alone adds up to $65.9 billion in annual costs. At a time when our health system is desperate for cost savings, GCOA argues that we should be targeting these kinds of conditions for wellness and treatment and thereby re-imagining how we age.
The report found that while treatments for OAB do exist, they are neither practical for older adults nor have they been proven adequately effective in treating OAB. The most common treatment prescribed today is a group of drugs called anticholinergics. Unfortunately, one study shows that 92 percent of patients using these drugs to treat OAB failed initial treatment within two years, and 82 percent stopped taking the drugs due to factors such as unmet treatment expectations and negative side effects. These drugs have, in fact, been shown by years of research and in-market experience to have adverse effects on cognitive health, and recent studies have linked their use to an increased risk of dementia and damage to the central nervous system.
“Even though more research needs to be conducted to fully understand the long-term effects of these OAB treatments, the data showing the correlation between anticholinergics and cognitive side effects is quite clear,” said Dr. Michael Chancellor, Professor of Urology, Beaumont Health System and Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. “We must do better for patients dealing with this stigmatized and often overlooked condition and must encourage innovation for new and better treatment options.”
The report also underscored that the stigma associated with conditions like OAB increases with age. This stigma related to loss of control of the body leads to social interruption and can serve as a barrier to seeking treatment. GCOA is calling for greater public health attention to addressing bladder health as a condition of aging that can be prevented, treated, and/or marginalized as a part of a healthier and more active approach to aging. Employment and social policy, retirement plans, fiscal policy, healthcare, and public service delivery are among the ways policymakers can comprehensively promote active aging.
“We have a great deal of evidence disproving the assumption that a decline in the health of our skin, vision, hearing, bone and muscle mass, and bladder are inevitable as we age,” said Hodin. “Addressing OAB through awareness to reduce stigma, an active aging agenda to address prevention, and new and better interventions to treat the condition will go a long way toward changing perceptions of aging and ensuring better quality of life for us all as we age.”
Click here to read the report.