Urinary Incontinence in Women Linked to Poorer Mental Health, New Study Shows
Women living with urinary incontinence report higher rates of depression and lower levels of self-worth, according to a new study.
Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control, which results in unintentional passing of urine.
Presented at the European Association of Urology Congress, the research was based on a population-based survey by the Portuguese health ministry, which is conducted every five years and quizzes survey-respondents about various aspects of their health and well-being. The researchers analyzed the responses of 10,000 women above the age of 18 and compared the prevalence of urinary incontinence with that of depression diagnoses and mental health consultations.
The results indicated that women who experienced urinary incontinence not only went in for more mental health consultations but were also 66% more likely to be diagnosed with depression. Moreover, compared to women without incontinence, those with the condition found it more difficult to concentrate on things and had lower self-worth.
“The high levels of depression and low self-worth in women who reported having incontinence are very concerning. Urinary incontinence can be treated and although there are some potential side effects from treatment, for some women these may be preferable to the mental health impacts of the condition,” Margarida Manso, from the University Hospital Center of São João in Portugal, who was involved in the research, said in a statement.
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Urinary continence is known to affect over 200 million people globally. “It has a devastating impact on anyone affected by it — predominantly women but also some men,” Professor Christopher Chapple, secretary general of the European Association of Urology, told the press.
In 2012, an Indian survey of about 2,000 women living in or around Chennai found that, while 46% of the respondents experienced some degree of urinary incontinence, only 13% were not against the idea of seeking medical help. Their hesitation to see a doctor resulted either from shyness, from the belief that it was a “passing problem,” or from being unaware of the kind of specialist they should consult, if at all.
“While close to 40% knew that help was available, only one in four actually consulted a doctor,” said Karthik Gunasekaran, a uro-gynecologist and founder-secretary of the Indian Urogynecological Society, who led the Indian survey.
When patients do seek help, researchers believe medical professionals should be aware of the psychological cost of the condition while discussing treatment options.
“We believe the conversation between patients and their urologists needs to change. Clinicians should be asking patients about their mental health when discussing treatments, because treating their physical challenges could help with the psychological cost of the condition,” Manso recommended. “Personally, I will be emphasising this more with my patients and trying to understand better the mental burden of living with incontinence,” she added.