Overactive bladder and mental health symptoms in recently deployed female veterans

J Urol. 2014 May;191(5):1327-32. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2013.11.100. Epub 2013 Dec 6.


Purpose: We estimate the prevalence of current overactive bladder symptoms in recently deployed female veterans, and determine if overactive bladder symptoms are associated with problems commonly reported after deployment including mental health symptoms and prior sexual assault.

Materials and methods: Baseline data were analyzed from a nationwide cohort study of urogenital symptoms in female veterans. Women returning from deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan in the prior 2 years and ending military service were eligible. Self-reported data were collected by computer assisted telephone interview. Overactive bladder and mental health conditions were identified using standardized definitions as well as validated urinary and mental health instruments. Associations between overactive bladder and depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and sexual assault were assessed in separate logistic regression models using propensity scores to adjust for confounding.

Results: The 1,702 participants had a mean (SD) age of 31.1 (8.4) years and were racially/ethnically diverse. Overall 375 participants (22%; 95% CI 20.1, 24.1) reported overactive bladder. Mental health outcomes included post-traumatic stress disorder (19%), anxiety (21%), depression (10%) and prior sexual assault (27%). All outcomes were associated with overactive bladder (adjusted OR 2.7, 95% CI [2.0, 3.6], 2.7 [2.0, 3.5], 2.5 [1.5, 4.3] and 1.4 [1.1, 1.9], respectively).

Conclusions: Overactive bladder symptoms occurred in 22% of recently deployed female veterans, and were associated with self-reported mental health symptoms and traumatic events including prior sexual assault. Screening and evaluation for bothersome urinary symptoms and mental health problems appear warranted in female veterans presenting for primary and urological care after deployment.

Keywords: lower urinary tract symptoms; mental disorders; overactive; urinary bladder; veterans health; women's health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Afghanistan
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urinary Bladder, Overactive / complications*
  • Urinary Bladder, Overactive / epidemiology
  • Veterans Health*