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Urinary incontinence among women—which personal and professional relations are involved? A population-based study


Introduction and hypothesis

Urinary incontinence (UI) is frequent among women worldwide, but embarrassment and shame can prevent them from discussing symptoms with others. This study aimed to identify personal and professional relations involved by Danish women with UI. It further aimed to investigate whether age, persistence of symptoms, number of symptoms, influence on daily activities and concern about the symptoms are associated with involving personal and professional relations.


A sample of 51,090 Danish women, aged ≥ 20 years, were invited to participate in a web-based cross-sectional survey in 2012. We identified individuals with self-reported symptoms of stress incontinence, urge incontinence and UI without stress/urge and explored the involvement of personal and professional relations. Descriptive statistics and multivariate logistic regression were used for analyses.


In total, 26,466 women completed the questionnaire. Of the 5861 (22.1%) women who had experienced a minimum of one UI symptom within the preceding 4 weeks, 71.4% did not involve any professional relations and 45.0% did not involve any personal relations. Further, 38.8% involved neither personal nor professional relations. Personal relations were most often involved, mainly those with the spouse/partner, friends and children. Involving a personal relation was associated with three to five times increased odds of involving health care professionals for all UI types.


UI is highly prevalent, but the condition is infrequently discussed in personal and professional relations. Future research should address the quality of the contacts made and barriers to involving other people.

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Fig. 1



General practitioner


Urinary incontinence


Stress urinary incontinence


Urge urinary incontinence


Health care professional


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The initial survey was conducted in collaboration among the Research Unit for General Practice, University of Southern Denmark and the Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care, Aarhus University.

The authors thank Sonja Wehberg and René dePont Christensen for statistical advice and calculations.


The study is financially supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Danish Cancer Society. The funding sources had no involvement in the study or in the approval of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Isabella Raasthøj.

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Raasthøj, I., Elnegaard, S., Rosendal, M. et al. Urinary incontinence among women—which personal and professional relations are involved? A population-based study. Int Urogynecol J 30, 1565–1574 (2019).

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  • Help-seeking behaviour
  • Primary health care
  • Social support
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Women’s health