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Depression, Urinary Incontinence Tied?

Study: Women With Urinary Incontinence More Likely to Be Depressed
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 20, 2006 -- Women with urinary incontinence are more likely than other women to be depressed, a new study shows.

The mix of depression and urinary incontinence is worse than either condition alone and doctors "need to be attentive to these findings," write the researchers. They included Simone Vigod, MD, of the University of Toronto.

"It is imperative that women with either condition be screened for the other, no matter what their age group might be," Vigod's team writes in Psychosomatics.

Between 10% and 50% of all women experience urinary incontinence at some point in their lives, according to background information in Vigod's study. Depression is also common, affecting more than 9% of U.S. adults in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

About Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the inability to hold your urine until you get to a restroom. The condition is twice as common in women as in men, is often temporary, and can happen for various medical reasons, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Although urinary incontinence becomes more common with age, it's not a normal part of aging.

Types of urinary incontinence include:

  • Stress incontinence: Leaking urine due to movements such as coughing, laughing, or sneezing.
  • Urge incontinence: Losing urine for no apparent reason while suddenly feeling the need or urge to urinate. Also known as 'overactive bladder.'
  • Functional incontinence: Having problems thinking, moving, or communicating in time to reach a toilet.
  • Overflow incontinence: Having a full bladder that leaks urine due to overflow.

Patients often don't mention incontinence to their doctors, but speaking up is the first step to treatment.

Tracking Depression, Urinary Incontinence

Vigod's team got their data from nearly 69,000 women in Canada. The women took surveys that asked, "Do you suffer from urinary incontinence?" and screened for depression and quality of life.

The surveys showed that women with urinary incontinence were more likely to be depressed than those without incontinence; more than twice as likely for younger women. The findings include:

  • About 3% of the women in the study reported having urinary incontinence.
  • More than 80% of incontinent women were older than 44.
  • About 9% of the entire group had had major depression in the past year.

Major depression was more common in younger women, affecting nearly 12% of those aged 18-44, compared with 7% of those aged 45 and older.

Among incontinent women, more than 15% had had major depression in the past year, compared with about 9% of those without urinary incontinence. Quality of life also dipped with incontinence, the surveys also showed.

Age Gap

Young women with urinary incontinence were most likely to be depressed.

"Women with urinary incontinence who were aged 18-44 had the highest prevalence of depression, almost three times that of women aged 45 and older," write Vigod and colleagues.

The researchers can't explain the age gap. Their surveys didn't check the women's severity or type of urinary incontinence.

"Regardless of how the two disorders are related, the combined impact of urinary incontinence and major depression exceeds the impact of either condition alone," Vigod's team writes.

"Leaving either of these disorders undiagnosed and thus untreated will clearly have a significant impact on the health and quality of life of individual patients and the population as a whole," the researchers conclude.

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