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Int J Behav Med. 2003;10(2):143-61.

Managing urinary incontinence across the lifespan.

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School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia.


In the 1996 baseline surveys of the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health (ALSWH), 36.1% of mid-age women (45-50) and 35% of older women (70-75) reported leaking urine. This study aimed to investigate (a) the range of self-management strategies used to deal with urinary incontinence (UI); (b) the reasons why many women who report leaking urine do not seek help for UI; and (c) the types of health professionals consulted and treatment provided, and perceptions of satisfaction with these, among a sample of women in each age group who reported leaking urine "often" at baseline. Five hundred participants were randomly selected from women in each of the mid-age and older cohorts of the ALSWH who had reported leaking urine "often" in a previous survey. Details about UI (frequency, severity, and situations), self-management behaviors and help-seeking for UI, types of health professional consulted, recommended treatment for the problem, and satisfaction with the service provided by health care professionals and the outcomes of recommended treatments were sought through a self-report mailed follow-up survey. Most respondents had leaked urine in the last month (94% and 91% of mid-age and older women, respectively), and 72.2% and 73.1% of mid-aged and older women, respectively, had sought help or advice about their UI. In both age groups, the likelihood of having sought help significantly increased with severity of incontinence. The most common reasons for not seeking help were that the women felt they could manage the problem themselves or they did not consider it to be a problem. Many women in both cohorts had employed avoidance techniques in an attempt to prevent leaking urine, including reducing their liquid consumption, going to the toilet "just in case," and rushing to the toilet the minute they felt the need to.

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