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The aims of the present study were to investigate the prevalence, characteristics and status of urinary incontinence among women and men with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in primary health care.Information on the prevalence of urinary incontinence in women and men with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is scant. Such knowledge may be important to the development of care for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.A questionnaire survey.The study included 391 women and 337 men, aged 50–75 years, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A self-administered, evidence-based questionnaire for incontinence was used. A response rate of 66% was obtained, of which 89·3% had spirometry-confirmed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and most patients had been diagnosed with moderate (Stage II) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.The prevalence of urinary incontinence in women and men with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was 49·6 and 30·3%, respectively. Women and men with urinary incontinence had a significantly higher body mass index than did women and men without urinary incontinence. The most common type of incontinence in women was stress incontinence (52·4%) and in men postmicturition dribbling (66·3%). Women with urinary incontinence had a higher presence of a symptomatic cough than did women without urinary incontinence (p < 0·001). On the whole, incontinence affected women more than men concerning experienced bothersomeness of incontinence (p < 0·001). More women than men with urinary incontinence refrained from activities (p < 0·021) and had sought help for incontinence (p < 0·012).The present results indicate that urinary incontinence content should be included in care plans for patients living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In addition, the results imply that nurses and physicians working in primary health care should ask patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease about urinary incontinence and then offer appropriate assessment and management of it.In the context of primary health care, assessing and managing urinary incontinence should be included in care plans for patients living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.