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Dan Med Bull. 1992 Dec;39(6):565-70.

Social context, social abstention, and problem recognition correlated with adult female urinary incontinence.

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Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of Aarhus.



The aim was to describe types of social contexts and abstention from social activity in women reporting urinary incontinence (UI); to identify social contexts and social abstention specifically associated with clinical UI subtypes; to relate clinical type of UI, social context and social abstention to individual problem perception.


A self-administered postal questionnaire was sent to a random population sample comprising 3,114 women aged 30-59 in the Municipality of Aarhus, Denmark. RESPONDERS: A total of 2,631 women (84.5%) responded with a slight decrease in response rate by age. The present study group consists of 511 women (19.4% of the responders) who reported period prevalent UI for at least one of the years 1985-1987.


Eighty-six percent of the study group members reported stress UI and 50% urge UI, so that 42% had both (mixed stress and urge UI) and 6% none of them (unspecific UI). Forty-six percent indicated the workplace and 66% the home as principal sites of UI occurrence. Thirty-one percent had experienced UI in specific situations such as during anxiety, sexual intercourse, or sleep. Nineteen percent had abstained from social activities, 17% from non-intimate social activity and 6% from sexual intercourse. Fourteen percent perceived UI as a social problem and 60% as a hygienic problem. Indicators of stress UI were associated with UI occurring at the work-place and during sexual intercourse which, in turn, both were correlates of abstention from non-intimate social activity. Urge UI was associated with episodes of UI occurring at home and in specific situations such as during anxiety and sleep. The experience of UI during sexual intercourse was related to all types of abstention. The perception of UI as a social or hygienic problem depended on the duration since first UI episode as well as social context and abstention.


The everyday life consequences of UI are widespread and may cause serious relational problems for the individual. Stress UI manifests itself as a somatic condition leading to abstention from sport and other non-intimate social activities. Urge UI and the role of the experience of UI during sexual intercourse should be further investigated also from psycho-somatic and psycho-social coping points of view.

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