What is the prevalence of urinary incontinence?

Updated: Mar 19, 2019
  • Author: Sandip P Vasavada, MD; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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Answer

The precise prevalence of urinary incontinence is difficult to estimate. Part of the difficulty has been in defining the degree, quantity, and frequency of urine loss necessary to qualify as pathologic, with varying definitions among studies. Consequently, the prevalence of urinary incontinence reported in the literature is varied.

In addition, urinary incontinence is underdiagnosed and underreported. An estimated 50-70% of women with urinary incontinence fail to seek medical evaluation and treatment because of social stigma. Only 5% of incontinent individuals in the community and 2% in nursing homes receive appropriate medical evaluation and treatment. People with incontinence often live with this condition for 6-9 years before seeking medical therapy.

In a Swedish study of 9197 nulliparous women aged 25-64 years, the rate of urinary incontinence increased from 9.7% in the youngest women with a body mass index < 25 kg/m2 to 48.4% among the oldest women with a body mass index ≥35 kg/m2. [38] In a Dutch study of 1257 adults, the prevalence of urinary incontinence was 49.0% in women versus 22.6% in men. In both men and women, the prevalence of urinary incontinence increased with aging. [39, 40]

Urinary incontinence has been estimated to affect 10-13 million people in the United States and 200 million people worldwide. The cost of treating urinary incontinence in United States alone is $16.3 billion, 75% of which is spent on treatment of women. Urinary incontinence can result in prolonged hospital admission, urinary tract infections, contact dermatitis, and falls. Urinary incontinence is a leading cause of admission to a nursing home when families find it too difficult to care for a relative with incontinence.


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