Prevalence of urinary and faecal incontinence and nocturnal enuresis and attitudes to treatment and help-seeking amongst a community-based representative sample of adults in the United Kingdom

Int J Clin Pract. 2009 Apr;63(4):568-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2008.01974.x. Epub 2009 Jan 26.


Aim: To determine relative prevalence in the same population of urinary incontinence (UI), faecal incontinence (FI) and nocturnal enuresis (NE). To explore attitudes and behaviours relating to help-seeking and beliefs about incontinence prevalence, impact, causes and treatments.

Design: Online survey.

Subjects: A total of 1040 community-based adults in the UK, representative in terms of age, gender, region and socio-economic status.

Outcomes: Prevalence of UI, FI and NE; help-seeking behaviour and beliefs; beliefs about cause, impact and treatment of incontinence.

Results: Twenty-three per cent (n = 239) reported UI, 11% (n = 110) FI and 6% (n = 57) NE. Of those known to have sought help, 77% did so from a general practitioner (GP). Of those with no incontinence, 75% said they would seek help from a GP, while 23% said they did not know who they would seek help from. Many were unsure whether treatments were available. Around 90% recognised the serious personal impact of incontinence.

Conclusions: This survey suggests that, relative to UI, the prevalence of FI and NE may be higher than previous UK studies. That the majority of those who had sought help did so from a GP, and that those with no incontinence thought that they would do so if affected, underlines the importance of GP education in the diagnosis and management of incontinence and the need to raise public awareness of other sources of help. That many respondents were unsure of treatment options and yet aware of the impact of incontinence underlines the importance of awareness-raising.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Fecal Incontinence / epidemiology*
  • Fecal Incontinence / therapy
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nocturnal Enuresis / epidemiology*
  • Nocturnal Enuresis / therapy
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Urinary Incontinence / epidemiology*
  • Urinary Incontinence / therapy
  • Young Adult