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BJU Int. 2002 Oct;90(6):544-9.

The effect of urinary incontinence and overactive bladder symptoms on quality of life in young women.

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  • 1Research Group of Pelvic Floor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University Medical Centre, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



To assess the consequences that the symptoms of urinary incontinence and an overactive bladder have on the quality of life in young, community-dwelling women.


A population-based, cross-sectional cohort study was conducted in women aged 20-45 years. Urogenital symptoms and quality of life were assessed using standardized questionnaires, e.g. the Urogenital Distress Inventory and Incontinence Impact Questionnaire.


The prevalence of symptoms of stress incontinence (39%), urge incontinence (15%) and an overactive bladder (12%) was high in this young population. Compared with urge incontinence, the symptoms of an overactive bladder similarly reduced the quality of life, but stress incontinence did not significantly affect the quality of life. Women with symptoms of an overactive bladder were especially limited in their mobility, whereas urge incontinence was especially associated with feelings of embarrassment. Although many women reported to be bothered by their symptoms, only a minority consulted their physician for them.


The symptoms of urinary incontinence and overactive bladder are common among young adult women and have the same detrimental effect on quality of life as urge incontinence. The reduction in mobility associated with overactive bladder symptoms may be especially distressing for these young and active women.

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