Urinary incontinence as a worldwide problem

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2003 Sep;82(3):327-38. doi: 10.1016/s0020-7292(03)00220-0.


Objectives: This paper reviews the literature on the prevalence of urinary incontinence (UI) and demonstrates its impact as a worldwide problem.

Methods: A MEDLINE search was performed to review population-based studies in English. Studies were grouped according to demographic variables and type of incontinence. Risk factors, help-seeking behavior, and quality of life measures were analyzed.

Results: The median prevalence of female UI was 27.6% (range: 4.8-58.4%) and prevalence of significant incontinence increased with age. The commonest cause of UI was stress (50%), then mixed (32%) and finally urge (14%). Risk factors included parity, obesity, chronic cough, depression, poor health, lower urinary tract symptoms, previous hysterectomy, and stroke. Although quality of life was affected, most patients did not seek help.

Conclusion: UI is a prevalent cross-cultural condition. Future studies should rely on universally accepted standardized definitions to produce meaningful evidence-based conclusions, as well as project the costs of this global healthcare problem.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Urinary Incontinence / epidemiology*
  • Urinary Incontinence, Stress / epidemiology