Health literacy and emotional responses related to fecal incontinence

Kristina Patel, Donna Z Bliss, Kay Savik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Purpose: The primary Purpose of this study was to examine continence literacy of individuals with fecal incontinence (FI) by identifying terms they used to refer to FI and to explore their emotional responses to FI. A secondary aim was to compare differences based on gender and age in younger (<65 years) versus older persons (>65 years) with FI. DESIGN: Secondary analysis of data collected prospectively in a clinical trial of fiber supplementation for FI. METHODS: Content analysis of participants' statements reported in field notes of data collectors and their responses to data forms and questions. Results: Only one participant used the term fecal incontinence to describe FI. Alternate terms described stool characteristics, named other gastrointestinal problems, or respondents referred to FI, using a term that seemed to depersonalize the problem. Emotional responses to FI focused on the influence of bothersome symptoms, interference with social activities, and need for control. Some participants used humor to cope with FI and reported emotional benefits gained through participation in a study. Women were impacted by the social limitations of having FI more than men. Younger people were more likely to express feelings of emotional upset than were older respondents. Conclusion: There is a need to increase health literacy about FI. WOC nurses are well qualified to educate patients about FI and to evaluate if higher continence literacy increases reporting of FI. Understanding the various emotional responses to FI may guide the optimal support that WOC nurses can provide and facilitate better management of FI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-79
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


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