A National health survey of 1000 women aged 30 years and older found that, although they were prepared to admit to bladder leakage in discussions with girlfriends, almost three in four “laughed off” the issues, rather than seeking help for the treatable condition. Alarmingly, 88 per cent of women laughed off bladder leakage, mistakenly attributing the condition to ageing or having children.
Other key survey findings include:
- 45 per cent did not seek treatment because they didn’t consider it a serious enough health issue
- 77 per cent knew pelvic floor muscle exercises could prevent or improve incontinence, but just 2 per cent performed pelvic floor muscle exercises the recommended three times a day
- Sneezing and coughing are the most common triggers of incontinence (68 and 65 per cent respectively)
Continence Foundation of Australia chief executive Rowan Cockerell said the findings showed women were continuing to ignore their health needs. “While it’s good that women feel bladder leakage is an issue they can raise with friends, it is alarming to know that they are simply laughing off the problem and not seeking help for what is a very treatable condition,” Ms Cockerell said.
“There continues to be a misconception that incontinence is an inevitable result of having children or ageing, and that’s just not true. Incontinence is common, but it’s not normal and should be treated just like any other health condition.
“The good news is, treatment usually involves simple lifestyle changes and pelvic floor muscle exercises, which everyone should be doing anyway to prevent incontinence.”
Incontinence is one the nation’s biggest health burdens, affecting 4.8 million adult Australians – a number predicted to reach 6.5 million by 2030. More than half of the women affected by incontinence are under 50 years old.
“Prevention is always better than a cure, but early treatment is really key to fixing the problem,” Ms Cockerell continued. “People who ignore the issue are often unaware of the impact incontinence has on their lifestyle, whether it be avoiding exercise or limiting social engagements for fear of an embarrassing accident.
“Women shouldn’t have to fear winter coughs and spring sneezes when treatment is readily available and has proven to be so successful. Incontinence isn’t something you have to put up with for the rest of your life.”
Ms Cockerell said people affected by incontinence should phone the Continence Foundation’s free National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66) for advice or information on local continence services, or go to continence.org.au