Adult nappy sales are set to overtake baby nappy sales in Japan, the country with the highest percentage of over 65s in the world. The unexpected surge in demand has caused companies to expand manufacturing facilities of ‘incontinence products’. Sales of adult nappies are expected to exceed those for young children by 2020.
Adults aged 65 plus make up just over 20 per cent of the Japanese population. In Australia over 65s made up 13.5 per cent of the population as of 2010, although the number has risen since then. Over the past two decades the number of people aged over 85 in Australia has increased by 170.6 per cent, compared with a total population growth of 30.9 per cent over the same period.
As stated in Japanese newspapers, the adult nappy industry is financially attractive in its own right, even without the ageing populations that Japan, Australia and many other countries are experiencing. Adult continence products can sell for as much as two-and-a-half times more than baby nappies, resulting in higher profit margins. Adult continence products also have more bulk sales channels, through hospitals and aged care facilities, than baby nappies do, as these are mostly sold to individuals.
The major difficulty with adult nappies is marketing them – they are a notoriously unattractive product, and building brand awareness can be difficult for companies. The world’s biggest hygiene product maker, SCA in Sweden, recently tried sending a sample of its adult nappies to every man in Sweden over the age of 55. The company’s phone lines were flooded with angry calls from men who perhaps did not wish to think about needing to use continence products one day.
Find out more about incontinence with Incontinence for dummies.
There seems always to be a health-related topic that it’s just not ‘nice’ to discuss. A few years ago no-one discussed prostate cancer – now it’s the new hot topic. Before that it was breast cancer, and before that it was STDs, and so on. Each of these health issues has been brought to light by a powerful awareness campaign, usually following a gradual upsurge in the prevalence of these diseases or issues.
Now nobody wants to talk about incontinence, and it’s pretty simple to see why. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that it’s happening to you. Unlike cancer or an infection you contract, it feels like it should be under your control (which isn’t necessarily true).
There have been a few campaigns aimed at women post-childbirth which have tried to bring incontinence issues to light. Men, however, have been left out of the picture, and nobody is talking about incontinence as one of the unfortunate likelihoods of the later ageing process.
However, as we can see from the numbers, Australia has an ageing population. The number of people experiencing some level of incontinence is going to continue to increase, and I think that it’s time to stop blushing and changing the subject.
Incontinence happens. It happens to men, it happens to women, it happens to the young, the elderly, to women who don’t have children and to women who do. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens to a much greater number of people than you might imagine. Perhaps, if we talked about it, more people would know that incontinence can, in many cases, be treated. Those people might then be able to get the help they need to avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment of not feeling in control of their bodies.
What do you think? Is it important to talk about health issues such as incontinence? Or are there some things best kept private?