The aim of this study was to assess and analyse the effects of urinary incontinence in women and to examine the relationship between these effects and the type and severity of incontinence. 110 women aged 20 to 65 who had reported urinary incontinence to their general practitioners underwent a comprehensive history and a complete urodynamic evaluation. The reported consequences of incontinence included low self-esteem, changing life-style in order to avoid potentially embarrassing situations, and all kinds of practical worries. Fear of the odour played the most important part and was mentioned as being the worst effect in 40% of the cases. Most of the women appeared to cope adequately with the unpleasant aspects of this condition. More effects were associated with urge incontinence than with stress incontinence, while there was a significant relationship between the objective severity of the incontinence and its psychosocial impact. The main conclusion is that although urinary incontinence is not a severe physical disability, a spectrum of psychological problems is associated with it. In particular, the fear of being smelt was of the utmost importance.