Brands and countries

Millions face urinary or fecal incontinence on a daily basis. Even so, these diverse individuals use many of the same management strategies, including adult diapers and pads. Consider typical product needs and how absorbent hygiene products, supported by hot melt adhesives, can satisfy them.

Experts on market trends in the absorbent hygiene industry agree: Sales of adult incontinence products are increasing in Europe and North America. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, an increasing number of them are faced with the condition. In fact, this market segment is estimated to reach USD 29.2 billion by 2032. That’s an annual growth rate of about 7%[1].

Incontinence is properly defined as the inability of the body to control the evacuative functions of urination or defecation. The condition can occur at virtually any age, regardless of race, gender, education, or income level. It can be triggered by medical conditions, events, or lifestyle choices.

For example:

  • An active adult may have had an accident, leaving him or her without bladder or bowel control. 
  • A fun-loving mother who gave birth, even years earlier, may leak urine when she laughs. 
  • An overweight individual may have weak or sagging pelvic floor muscles because of the extra stress on their body. Or, they may have nerve damage that affects bladder control due to Type 2 diabetes.
  • An athletic man may be recovering from surgery and is ordered to stay in bed. 
  • An elderly adult may be experiencing a loss of strength in their pelvic floor muscles due to natural aging.
  • A person may develop bowel incontinence from a medication.
  • A cigarette smoker with a chronic cough can damage their pelvic floor muscles, and also be at risk for overactive bladder and bladder cancer.
  • An adult may, in rare cases, experience nocturnal enuresis (also known as nighttime bedwetting).

However, diverse as these individuals are, their conditions generally fall into recognizable categories.

[1] Global Adult Incontinence Products Market Report 2022, PR Newswire.

Common Types of Urinary and Fecal Incontinence

Types of Urinary Incontinence

As many as 50% of women over the age of 18 will experience and overactive bladder or incontinence. According to a report from the American Urogynecologic Society, more than 60% of older women living independently in the United States experience urinary incontinence.  The percentage tends to be lower in men, though it increases for both genders as they age. While the term “adult incontinence” is commonly used, about 2 out of every 100 children are also affected. 

There are four basic types of urinary incontinence:

Overflow Incontinence

  • Unexpected, small dribbles of urine, which are frequent or constant, resulting from a full bladder. 

Stress Incontinence

  • Light urine leakage (2-50 mL per pad) from pressure on the bladder due to physical movement like coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, or heavy lifting. 

Urge Incontinence

  • A sudden, intense urge to urinate caused by an overactive bladder, resulting in a light to moderate loss of urine.

Functional Incontinence

  • Leakage of large urine amounts (130 to 460 mL per pad during the day and 150 to 750 mL per pad at night) due to a physical or mental impairment that prevents the person from reaching the toilet in time.

Some individuals may experience a combination of these urinary forms. This is referred to as mixed incontinence. Conversely, the combination of urinary and bowel incontinence is known as double incontinence.

Types of Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence can include the accidental bowel leakage or passing of stool, liquid stool, or mucus.[1] The two most common forms are:

Urge incontinence

  • Similar to its urinary counterpart, an unexpected urge that cannot be controlled or stopped before reaching the toilet. This may be related to weak pelvic floor muscles or nerve damage.

Passive incontinence

  • Leakage of the bowels without the individual being aware of it, such as from poor nerve function. This can be due to the body being unaware that the bowels are full.

Fecal incontinence is most common in older adults. The condition effects 18-33% of adults in hospitals, and a surprising 50-70% of those in nursing homes. 


Eight Absorbent Hygiene Product Needs That Can’t Be Ignored

While incontinence can impact anyone, product users generally fall into one of three categories: active adults, impaired individuals, and caregivers. Each has different needs. However, there are eight basic product needs for leakage management that all three groups generally share:

Fit to body

Prevents leakage and discomfort through the use of elastics and appropriate sizes designed for body contours; no twisting, bunching, or sagging when wet.

Leak protection

Supports discretion while reducing the need for more frequent changing and laundering of clothes or bed linens.

Adequate absorption

Using the right product with the capacity to hold the right amount of urine or faces at the right time.

No wet sensation

Avoids the uncomfortable awareness of constantly wet skin or feces after insult; what begins as a comfort issue can lead to health concerns when a change has to wait; this includes when impaired individuals can’t detect—or signal to a caregiver—that a change is needed.

Skin protection

Promotes skin wellness through the use of softer materials, ointments, and creams that can help reduce the occurrence of friction-related irritation.

Odor control

Minimizes disagreeable scents both before and after insult; maintains user discretion; avoids unpleasant response at home or in healthcare environments where it can affect wearers, visitors, or workers.

Ease of use

Essential for independent users who change products; also helps caregivers to do their jobs effectively while maintaining the comfort and dignity of impaired individuals.


Budgeting for long-term product use is challenging, especially for those on a fixed income and not receiving any supplemental aid.

Designing Disposable Articles to Meet the Five Basic Consumer Needs

Another way to evaluate the features of your product line of disposable diapers for adults is through the lens of five basic consumer needs:

  • Fit well, without bunching or sagging
  • Stay in place without awkward shifting
  • Keep the skin dry, even after insult
  • Cause no skin irritation or red marks
  • Allow the skin to breathe, to minimize sweating and damage from overheating
  • Be easy to put on, attach, or remove
  • Allow for odor-free disposal
  • Spares tuck away easily, in case a change is needed
  • Be discreet, with minimal odor, sound, or visibility beneath clothing
  • Offer adequate absorption volume and rate
  • Resist leaks
  • Offer the same performance, time after time
  • Align with expected conventions for sizing and terminology

 … and do them ALL at an affordable cost.

The Role of Adhesives in Meeting Consumer Needs for Incontinence Management

Fortunately, hot melt adhesives can play a valuable role in meeting the needs of different demographics. In fact, they enable many features in today’s disposable diapers and pads.

  • Elastic attachment adhesives support better fit and are integral in pant-style diapers, including those designed to feel like underwear. When used in cuffs, they also aid with leak protection.
  • Pad attachment adhesives allow pads for light urinary incontinence to be affixed into the underwear, and remain in place throughout the day. Their staying power affects user comfort as well as the pad’s ability to perform effectively.
  • Construction adhesives perform a variety of functions, depending on the article type. In diaper-style products, for example, there may be upwards of a dozen applications. Each supports the finished article during use.
  • Core adhesives take on several roles, from sealing the core and preventing shifting to stabilizing the fluff/SAP (or SAP-only) core matrix. All are vital in ensuring absorption and retention of the insult as intended.

As you consider how to optimize your incontinence product lines, talk to Bostik. Our absorbent hygiene adhesive experts can help you choose the right options, including high-performance adhesives, to meet your needs, and those of your consumers.

Ready to get started?

Contact us Today!

©2024 Bostik, Inc. All Rights Reserved 

All information contained herein is believed to be accurate as of the date of publication, is provided “as-is” and is subject to change without notice. To review our full U.S. Legal Disclaimer, visit: 

See also

Back to all articles
  • Disposable Hygiene

What Will Adult Incontinence Consumers Say About Your Products?

Sep 27, 2021
  • Disposable Hygiene

The Incontinence in the U.S. with Vicki Wolpoff, Adam Greenberg, and Diane Toonen

Nov 8, 2021
  • Disposable Hygiene

The Needs of Incontinence Sufferers with Vicki Wolpoff and Adam Greenberg

Nov 22, 2021