A new study shows that middle-aged women are more likely to suffer depression from a common medical problem they find too embarrassing to talk about: urinary incontinence.
Research from The University of Adelaide found that women between the ages of 43 and 65 with incontinence were more likely to be depressed than older women.
This may be because younger women’s self esteem is hit hard by urinary incontinence, while older women tend to be more resilient and accepting of their condition, according to Jodie Avery, a graduate student with the University’s School of Population Health and School of Medicine.
“Women with both incontinence and depression scored lower in all areas of quality of life because of the impact of incontinence on their physical well-being,” she said.
“Key issues for younger women affected by incontinence are family, sexual relationships and sport and leisure activities. The most common difficulties women express about their incontinence are things like: ‘I can’t go to the gym’, ‘I can’t go for walks’, or ‘I can’t go dancing’. These are real issues for women who are still in the prime of their lives.”
Urinary incontinence affects approximately 35 percent of the female population, according to the researcher. The main cause in women is pregnancy, with the number of children they have increasing their chances of becoming incontinent, she explained.
“Our studies show that 20 percent of the incontinent population has depression,” Avery said, noting that this is something that those who suffer with the condition and general practitioners (GP) need to better understand.
“Sufferers of incontinence are often reluctant to get help, but attitudes are slowly changing,” she continued. “It is very important for them to seek advice about their condition. In some cases, urinary incontinence can be curable with an operation, and this is quite literally a life-changing operation for many women.”
Doctors need to be aware that incontinence is often linked with depression, she added, noting that the depression “needs to be treated” to increase the women’s quality of life.
“Ultimately, we hope that our research helps to raise awareness in the community about both the mental and physical issues associated with incontinence,” she said. “We know it’s embarrassing, but if you discuss it with your GP, your life really can change.”
Source: The University of Adelaide