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Adult diaper

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An adult diaper (or adult nappy in Australian English, British English, and Hiberno-English) is a diaper made to be worn by a person with a body larger than that of an infant or toddler. Diapers can be necessary for adults with various conditions, such as incontinence, mobility impairment, severe diarrhea or dementia. Adult diapers are made in various forms, including those resembling traditional child diapers, underpants, and pads resembling sanitary napkins (known as incontinence pads). Superabsorbent polymer is primarily used to absorb bodily wastes and liquids.

Adult diaper

Alternative terms such as "briefs", "incontinence briefs", or "incontinence products" are also used.

Global market

The size of the adult diaper market in 2016 was $9.8 billion, an increase from $9.2 billion in 2015.[1] Adult diaper sales in the United States were projected to rise 48 percent from 2015 to 2020, compared to 2.6 percent for baby diapers.[2] The adult incontinence market in Japan was $1.8 billion in 2016, about 20 percent of the world market.[2]


Health care

"Although donning a diaper to decrease the number of bathroom stops is not something you or I would think to do, otherwise healthy adults do wear diapers more often than we realize for good reasons."

—Merlene Davis of the Lexington Herald-Leader, referring to the Lisa Nowak incident and adult diaper usage in general.[3][4]

People with medical conditions which cause them to experience urinary or fecal incontinence often require diapers or similar products because they are unable to control their bladders or bowels. People who are bedridden or in wheelchairs, including those with good bowel and bladder control, may also wear diapers because they are unable to access the toilet independently. Those with cognitive impairment, such as dementia, may require diapers because they may not recognize their need to reach a toilet.

Men's and women's adult diapers in the form of underpants.

Absorbent incontinence products come in a wide range of types (drip collectors, pads, underwear and adult diapers), each with varying capacities and sizes. The largest volume of products that is consumed falls into the lower absorbency range of products, and even when it comes to adult diapers, the cheapest and least absorbent brands are used the most. This is not because people choose to use the cheapest and least absorbent brands, but rather because medical facilities are the largest consumer of adult diapers, and they have requirements to change patients as often as every two hours. As such, they select products that meet their frequent-changing needs, rather than products that could be worn longer or more comfort.[5]

An adult male in a disposable diaper worn backwards (usually there is a way to tell the front from the back of a disposable diaper; in this picture the gray rectangle is on the back of the diaper, meaning it is being worn backwards).
Adult diaper

Specialty diapers are required for swimming or pool therapy. These are known as swim diapers or containment swim briefs. They are intended mainly for fecal incontinence, however they can also be useful for temporary urine containment, to maintain dignity while transferring from change room to pool. Manufacturers such as Discovery Trekking, Splash About and Theraquatics commonly utilize a stretch fabric[6] to allow increased adjustability for a snug fit. They are washable and reusable.


The case Hiltibran et al v. Levy et al in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri resulted in that court issuing an order in 2011. That order requires adult diapers funded by Medicaid to be given by Missouri to adults who would be institutionalized without them.[7][8][9]


Astronauts wear trunklike diapers called "Maximum Absorbency Garments", or MAGs, during liftoff and landing.[10] On space shuttle missions, each crew member receives three diapers—for launch, reentry and a spare in case reentry has to be waved off and tried later.[11] The super-absorbent fabric used in disposable diapers, which can hold up to 400 times its weight, was developed so Apollo astronauts could stay on spacewalks and extra-vehicular activity for at least six hours.[3][4] Originally, only female astronauts would wear Maximum Absorbency Garments, as the collection devices used by men were unsuitable for women; however, reports of their comfort and effectiveness eventually convinced men to start wearing the diapers as well.[12] Public awareness of astronaut diapers rose significantly following the arrest of Lisa Nowak, a NASA astronaut charged with attempted murder, who gained notoriety in the media when the police reported she had driven 900 miles, with an adult diaper so she would not have to stop to urinate.[13] The diapers became fodder for many television comedians, as well as being included in an adaptation of the story in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, despite Nowak's denial that she wore them.[14]


Adult diapers are also associated with a number of sexual fetishes including diaper fetishism, in which the diaper itself is considered the main object of erotic enhancement, comfort, style, and other positive emotions. Diapers are also a common component of paraphilic infantilism and omorashi, and are occasionally a part of certain BDSM scenes.[15]

Increasingly, some companies that make or sell adult diapers have begun to supply products that specifically target and appeal to the kink community, often with higher absorbency or vibrant, cute or playful designs.


Other situations in which diapers are worn because access to a toilet is unavailable or not allowed for longer than even a normal urinary bladder can hold out include;[16]

  • Guards who must stay on duty and are not permitted to leave their posts; this is sometimes called the "watchman's urinal".[3][4]
  • It has long been suggested that legislators don a diaper before an extended filibuster, so often that it has been jokingly called "taking to the diaper."[3][4][17][18]
  • Some death row inmates who are about to be executed wear "execution diapers" to collect body fluids expelled during and after their death.[3][4][19]
  • People diving in diving suits (in former times often standard diving dress) may wear diapers because they are underwater continuously for several hours.[3][20]
  • Similarly, pilots may wear them on long flights.[3][4][21]
  • In 2003, Hazards magazine reported that workers in various industries were taking to wearing diapers because their bosses denied them toilet breaks during working hours. One woman said that she was having to spend 10% of her pay on incontinence pads for this reason.[22][23]
  • Chinese media reported in 2006 that diapers are a popular way to avoid long queues for the toilets on railway trains during the Lunar New Year traveling season.[24]
  • In Germany, younger patients in drunken coma are placed in hospital diapers.[25][26]
  • In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Civil Aviation Administration of China recommended that flight attendants wear disposable adult diapers to avoid using the lavatories, barring special circumstances, to avoid infection risks while working onboard aircraft.[27][28][29]
  • In New York City during the Holidays (such as New Year's Eve) people wear them so that they are able to relieve themselves without losing their spot.

"Diapers are something that people don't want to look at, but if you make them attractive, then people can learn about them more easily."

—Kiyoko Hamada of the Aging Lifestyle Research Center, a leading organizer of the 2008 Tokyo diaper fashion show.[30]

The adult diaper market in Japan is growing.[31] On September 25, 2008, Japanese manufacturers of adult diapers conducted the world's first all-diaper fashion show, dramatizing throughout it many informative dramatic scenarios which addressed various issues relevant to older people in diapers. "It was great to see so many different types of diapers all in one showing," said Aya Habuka, 26. "I learned a lot. This is the first time that diapers are being considered as fashion."[32]

In May 2010, the Japanese adult diaper market expanded to be used as an alternative fuel source. The used diapers are shred, dried, and sterilized to be turned into fuel pellets for boilers. The fuel pellets amount for 1/3 the original weight and contains about 5,000 kcal of heat per kilogram.[33]

In September 2012, Japanese magazine SPA! [ja] described the trend of wearing diapers among Japanese women.[34][35]

There are those who believe diapers are a preferable alternative to using the toilet. According to Dr Dipak Chatterjee of Mumbai newspaper Daily News and Analysis, public toilet facilities are so unhygienic that it is actually safer for people—especially women—who are vulnerable to infections to wear adult diapers instead.[36] Seann Odoms of Men's Health magazine believes that wearing diapers can help people of all ages to maintain healthy bowel function. He himself claims to wear diapers full-time for this purported health benefit. "Diapers," he states, "are nothing other than a more practical and healthy form of underwear. They are the safe and healthy way of living."[37] Author Paul Davidson argues that it should be socially acceptable for everyone to wear diapers permanently, claiming that they provide freedom and remove the unnecessary hassle of going to the toilet, just as social advancement has offered solutions to other complications. He writes, "Make the elderly finally feel embraced instead of ridiculed and remove the teasing from the adolescent equation that affects so many children in a negative way. Give every person in this world the opportunity to live, learn, grow and urinate anywhere and anytime without societal pressure to "hold themselves in.""[38]

Dignity issues

The usage of adult diapers[39] can be a source of embarrassment,[40] and products are often marketed under euphemisms such as incontinence pads.

In 2006, seventeen students taking a geriatrics pharmacotherapy course participated in a voluntary "diaper experience" exercise to help them understand the impact incontinence has on older adults. The students, who wore adult diapers for a day before writing a paper about it, described the experience as unfamiliar and physically challenging, noting that being in diapers had a largely negative impact on them and that better solutions to incontinence are required. However, they praised the exercise for giving them insight into incontinence and the effect it has on peoples' lives.[41]

In 2008, Ontario's Minister of Health George Smitherman revealed that he was considering wearing adult diapers himself to test their absorbency following complaints that nursing home residents were forced to remain in unchanged diapers for days at a time. Smitherman's proposal earned him criticism from unions who argued that the priority was not the capacity of the diapers but rather staff shortages affecting how often they were changed, and he later apologized.[42][43][44][45]

See also


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  2. ^ a b Steger, Isabella (2019-01-28). "The next big innovation in Japan's aging economy is flushable adult diapers". Quartz (publication). Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Davis, Merlene (February 11, 2007). "I Did My Research on Adult Diapers". Lexington Herald-Leader. p. C1.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Merlene Davis (2007-02-11). "The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky., Merlene Davis Column: I Did My Research on Adult Diapers". RedOrbit. Archived from the original on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2007-12-16.
  5. ^ 80% of people with incontinence are wearing the wrong products, Finnegan Medical Supply
  6. ^ "Discovery Trekking Outfitters - SOSecure Containment Swim Brief". Archived from the original on 2011-11-02. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  7. ^ "Recent Cases - Olmstead Rights". www.olmsteadrights.org.
  8. ^ "govinfo". www.govinfo.gov.
  9. ^ "govinfo". www.govinfo.gov.
  10. ^ "Behind the Scenes: Training". Archived from the original on 2005-09-10.
  11. ^ Los Angeles Times (9 February 2007). "NASA diapers become topic No. 1". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ "What's The Deal With The Diapers?". Newsweek. 18 February 2007.
  13. ^ "NASA Astronaut Lisa Nowak Charged With Attempted Murder in Bizarre Love Triangle". Fox News. Archived from the original on 2008-01-15. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  14. ^ "Astronaut's attorney: She did NOT wear diapers - CNN.com". CNN. Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  15. ^ Pretlow, Robert A. "The internet can reveal previously unknown causes of medical conditions, such as attraction to diapers as a cause of enuresis and incontinence". Mednet 2002. Archived from the original on 2006-02-17.
  16. ^ Fisher, Adam. "adult diaper for the politically active". GENKAKU-AGAIN (adam fisher). Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  17. ^ "Wayne Morse Sets Filibuster Record".
  18. ^ "Peeing During Filibusters, Explained". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  19. ^ "The electric chair 1889 - ?". Archived from the original on May 15, 2008. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  20. ^ Harris, Richard (December 2009). "Genitourinary infection and barotrauma as complications of 'P-valve' use in drysuit divers". Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine. 39 (4): 210–2. PMID 22752741. Archived from the original on 2013-05-26. Retrieved 2013-04-04.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  21. ^ "While they bombed, diapers kept Sukhoi pilots dry". The New Indian Express. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013.
  22. ^ "Hazards 81 extended briefing: Toilet breaks". Hazards. Archived from the original on 27 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  23. ^ "Hazards: Loo Break A Right Not A Privilege". UnionSafe. 2003-02-25. Archived from the original on 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  24. ^ Xinhua News Agency. (2006). "Reference at news.xinhuanet.com". Archived from the original on February 6, 2006.
  25. ^ "Nachrichten - BerlinOnline.de". Archived from the original on 2010-05-05. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
  26. ^ Melina Rademacher, Klasse 10b. ""Neue Zustnde" und Windeln im Krankenhaus". Archived from the original on 2010-04-29. Retrieved 2010-04-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ "Chinese aviation body suggests flight attendants wear diapers on board planes | CNN Travel". CNN.
  28. ^ "Chinese flight crews advised to wear diapers to avoid COVID". USA Today.
  29. ^ "China advises cabin crew to wear diapers on risky coronavirus flights | Fox Business". Fox Business. 10 December 2020.
  30. ^ "The Associated Press: Japan holds diaper fashion show _ for adults". Archived from the original on 2008-09-29. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
  31. ^ "P&G seeks buyer for Japan adult diaper brand". Reuters. 2007-02-15.
  32. ^ "Diaper Fashion Show Hits the Catwalk". Fox News. Archived from the original on 2008-09-29. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
  33. ^ "Used Adult Diapers - The Fuel Of Tomorrow, Today!" Inventorspot. 2 May 2010. Web. 4 May 2010. <"Used Adult Diapers - The Fuel Of Tomorrow, Today!".>.
  34. ^ ズボラの最終形か? オムツ女子の生態. 日刊SPA! (in Japanese). 2012-09-28. Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  35. ^ Chittley, Jordan (2012-10-08). "Adult diapers a surprising new trend among Japanese women". Daily Buzz. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  36. ^ Chatterjee, Dipak (2007-02-11). "Docs advise diapers over public loos". DNA. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  37. ^ Jerry Kennard. "Men Wearing Nappies". About. Archived from the original on 2008-09-17. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  38. ^ "Adult Diapers For The Rest Of Us - Paul Davidson Dot Net - Under Construction". Archived from the original on 2008-07-04. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  39. ^ W., John (2011-03-18). "Incontience". Cauda Equina Syndrome Resource Center. Archived from the original on 2014-10-11. Retrieved 2014-09-17.
  40. ^ Stack, Jennie Borodko (February 2001). "When You've Gotta Go, You've Gotta Go". Muscular Dystrophy Association. Archived from the original on 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2008-01-03.
  41. ^ Boyce, Eric.; Dolder, Christian (2006-10-05). "Active Learning in a Geriatrics Pharmacotherapy Course: Outcomes Associated with a Diaper Experience Exercise". American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, San Diego, California. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  42. ^ Jordana Huber (2008-02-28). "Smitherman considers wearing diaper". National Post. Retrieved 2008-05-20.[permanent dead link]
  43. ^ The Canadian Press (2008-02-27). "Ont. health minister prepared to don adult diaper". CTV Television Network. Archived from the original on March 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
  44. ^ John Turley-Ewart (2008-02-27). "John Turley-Ewart: On George Smitherman and his dirty diaper". National Post. Retrieved 2008-05-20.[permanent dead link]
  45. ^ Rob Ferguson (2008-02-28). "I'm sorry, Smitherman says". Toronto: The Star.com. Archived from the original on 2 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-20.