Urinary Incontinence in a Community-Based Cohort: Prevalence and Healthcare-Seeking

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To estimate the prevalence of urinary incontinence and to assess care-seeking behavior for urinary symptoms among community-dwelling people.


A community-based cross-sectional study.


Randomly selected men and women from Olmsted County, Minnesota.


Two cohorts, one comprised of both men (n = 778) and women (n = 762) 50 years of age or older and a second comprised of men aged 40 years or older (n= 2150).


Participants completed questionnaires assessing urinary incontinence in the previous 12 months, the number of days leaked, the amount leaked, and healthcare-seeking seeking measures for urinary symptoms.


In the first cohort, the prevalence of incontinence was 24% in men and 49% in women; 29% of men and 13% of women with incontinence had sought care for urinary symptoms. Urinary incontinence was more strongly associated with care-seeking measures for urinary symptoms in men (Odds Ratio (OR) = 4.3, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 2.4, 8.0) than in women (OR = 2.1, 95% CI = 1.2, 3.9). Moderate or severe urinary incontinence was associated significantly with care-seeking for urinary symptoms (OR = 10.5, 95% CI = 5.6, 19.8). In the second cohort, the prevalence of urinary incontinence was 17.3%; 8.5% of men with incontinence had sought care for urinary symptoms. Men with incontinence were 1.2 times (95% CI = .8, 1.9) as likely to seek care for urinary symptoms as men without incontinence.


Our findings indicate that although urinary incontinence is relatively common in the community, care-seeking for urinary symptoms among persons with urinary incontinence is low, particularly among women, for whom the prevalence exceeds 40% between the ages of 50 and 70 years. These findings suggest that strategies to promote care-seeking for incontinence need to be investigated and employed in the community.

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