Factors associated with women's decisions to seek treatment for urinary incontinence

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2003 Sep;12(7):687-98. doi: 10.1089/154099903322404339.


Background: Urinary incontinence is a highly prevalent and burdensome condition among women. However, fewer than half of women with symptoms talk to a physician about incontinence, and the determinants of treatment seeking are not well understood.

Design: A two-stage cross-sectional survey of adult U.S. women; 45,000 households participating in NFO Worldgroup survey research received a questionnaire to identify adults with incontinence. Based on stratified random sampling of identified incontinent women, 2310 women received a detailed questionnaire.

Results: Among 1970 women with urinary incontinence symptoms, 38% had initiated a conversation with a physician about incontinence. In multivariate logistic regression analysis, some of the factors associated significantly with treatment seeking were symptom duration >3 years (OR 2.33, 95% CI 1.57-3.45), having a history of a noticeable accident (OR 1.41, 95% CI 1.06-1.87), worse disease-specific quality of life scores (OR 1.89, 95% CI 1.32-2.70), not being embarrassed to talk with a physician about urinary symptoms (OR 1.65, 95% CI 1.28-2.14), talking with others about urinary incontinence (OR 3.34, 95% CI 2.49-4.49), and keeping regular appointments for routine/preventive care (OR 2.25, 95% CI 1.54-3.29).

Conclusions: Less than half of community-dwelling adult U.S. women with symptoms of urinary incontinence have talked with a physician about urinary incontinence. In addition to duration of symptoms, factors associated with treatment seeking included the impact of incontinence on quality of life, lack of embarrassment about talking to a physician about urinary symptoms, and attitudes toward healthcare use. Concerns about the meaning of incontinence for overall and future health were important reasons for women choosing to seek treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Urinary Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Urinary Incontinence / psychology*
  • Urinary Incontinence / therapy*
  • Women's Health*