BACKGROUND: Urinary incontinence (UI) is a frequently occurring condition among women and increases with age. Effective treatments exist but many women hesitate to contact their general practitioner (GP) regarding UI. Therefore, it is important to generate knowledge regarding barriers for healthcare-seeking. Several factors such as age, duration and number of symptoms are associated with healthcare-seeking. How socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with experiencing barriers for healthcare-seeking for UI has not been explored. The objectives of this study were to: (1) analyze frequencies of barriers for healthcare-seeking, and (2) investigate associations between SES and barriers for contacting the GP, among women reporting bothersome UI.
METHOD: A cross-sectional web-based questionnaire study of symptoms occurrence among 51,090 randomly selected women. This study investigates reported symptoms of three types of UI (stress UI, urge UI and UI without stress or urge) and reported barriers for GP contact combined with register data on SES.
RESULTS: A total of 4,051 (16.4%) women reported to be bothered by either stress UI (9.1%), urge UI (4.0%) or incontinence without stress or urge (2.4%) and 76.3%, 70%, and 64% respectively, had not contacted their GP regarding the symptom(s). The most frequently reported barriers were 'being too embarrassed' (19.3%) and 'being too busy' (18.4%) for stress incontinence, and 'being too embarrassed (19.0%) or 'worried about wasting the doctor's time' (16.9%) for women with bothersome urge UI or UI without stress or urge. Younger women had higher odds of reporting barriers and the barriers embarrassment and being worried about what the doctor might find were significantly associated with lower educational level.
CONCLUSION: Women with lower educational level have an increased risk of not seeking healthcare for UI symptoms. The GP should be aware of identifying women bothered by UI for whom effective treatment options to alleviate the symptoms are available.