Objective: To establish valid and reliable prevalence and incidence rates for urinary incontinence and storage disorder, and estimate the extent of healthcare need and requirement for the UK.
Subjects and methods: This was a cross-sectional and longitudinal population-based study involving registrants with 108 general practices in Leicestershire and Rutland counties (UK). In all, 162 533 (prevalence study) and 39 602 (incidence study) people aged > or = 40 years were approached by postal questionnaire, with response rates of 60% and 63%, respectively; 1050 non-responders were followed up. The main measures were incontinence (involuntary leakage) storage disorder (including incontinence or urgency or frequency or nocturia above clinically defined thresholds), storage symptoms (as for storage disorder, above epidemiologically defined thresholds), professionally defined healthcare need (storage disorder, or storage symptoms with an impact on quality of life, QoL), and healthcare requirement (using services or wanting help among those with a healthcare need), all within the last year.
Results: The period prevalence was: moderate or greater incontinence, 16.1%; storage disorder, 28.5%; storage symptoms with impact on QoL, 30.4%; healthcare need, 37.1% and requirement 20.4%. Among those with storage disorders 81% reported effects on QoL. Annual incidence rates were: incontinence, 6.3%; storage disorder, 14.1%; healthcare need, 15.6% and requirement 8.4%. The remission rates were substantially greater in men than women. The problem becomes increasingly established and less likely to remit with age.
Conclusions: In the UK over a 1-year period, over a third of people aged > or = 40 years are estimated to have a healthcare need for urinary storage symptoms (i.e. 9 million) and a fifth (i.e. 5 million) are estimated to require healthcare, with unmet requirement affecting 3 million. This represents a major public health problem. Apparent inconsistencies between prevalence, impact and uptake of services are explained.