Prevalence, management and impact of urinary incontinence in the workplace

Occup Med (Lond). 2005 Oct;55(7):552-7. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqi152.


Background: The few prior studies of urinary symptoms in the workplace have been small investigations of women in specific occupations (e.g. nursing) or industries (e.g. pottery manufacture). In this study, the aims were to describe the prevalence, management and impact of urinary incontinence for a large cross-section of employed women in the USA.

Methods: Five-page questionnaires were mailed to 5130 American households selected from the National Family Opinion survey panel during the spring of 2004. Usable questionnaires were returned by 3364 women in the target age range of 18-60 years.

Results: About 37% of the 2326 employed respondents reported urine loss during the last 30 days. The most common strategies for managing incontinence at work included frequent bathroom breaks and wearing pads. The use of urine control methods increased with the severity of urine loss. The effect of incontinence on workplace activities also increased with the severity of urine loss: 88% of employed women with the most severe symptoms reported at least some negative impact on concentration, performance of physical activities, self-confidence or the ability to complete tasks without interruption.

Conclusion: Urinary incontinence is prevalent among employed women. Those who experience severe symptoms report that it has a negative effect on aspects of work. Programs on the prevalence and impact of urinary incontinence would help educate both employers and employees, and may lead to the development of better management techniques in the workplace.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urinary Incontinence / epidemiology*
  • Urinary Incontinence / psychology
  • Urinary Incontinence / therapy
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Workplace / statistics & numerical data*