Urinary incontinence and depression

J Urol. 1999 Jul;162(1):82-4. doi: 10.1097/00005392-199907000-00020.


Purpose: Serotonergic neuronal systems have been implicated in anxiety and depression. Because descending serotonin pathways from the brain stem inhibit bladder contractions, we postulated that depression associated with altered serotonin function may predispose to urge incontinence. We demonstrate an association between depression and idiopathic urge incontinence.

Materials and methods: A total of 115 consecutive incontinent patients presenting to an incontinence clinic were compared to 80 continent controls. Patients were queried for a history of depression and completed a Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Cases were classified by history and video urodynamics as genuine stress (36), urge (44) or mixed (35) incontinence.

Results: A BDI of greater than 12 and/or a history of depression was noted in 30% of incontinent patients and 17% of controls (odds ratio 2.3, 95% confidence interval 1.0 to 5.0, p = 0.044). An abnormal BDI or history of depression was revealed in 60% of patients with idiopathic urge incontinence (p<0.001). Patients with stress or urge incontinence due to neuropathology or obstruction had no greater odds of having depression than continent controls.

Conclusions: These data suggest a strong association between depression and idiopathic urinary incontinence. This link may be due to altered serotonin function and may help explain the efficacy of serotonergic based antidepressants in the treatment of urge incontinence.

MeSH terms

  • Depression / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Urinary Incontinence / etiology*