Background. The aims of this population-based study were to compare the quality of life (QoL) in; (a) women with urinary incontinence (UI) and women without urinary incontinence (wUI) in relation to age, (b) women with stress incontinence and women with urge incontinence, and (c) women who had vs. women who had not consulted a health care service because of UI.
Methods. Totally, 787 women who reported symptoms of UI and 787 women who did not report symptoms of UI, aged 18–72 years, were mailed the Short Form-36 QoL questionnaire (SF-36) and a question concerning professional consultation. They were also mailed the Detrusor Instability Score questionnaire, which was used to clarify the women as being stress vs. urge incontinent.
Results. Women with UI had significantly lower scores on all eight dimensions of the SF-36. There were low correlations between age and the QoL scores in women with or without UI. Both women with stress incontinence and women with urge incontinence had significantly lower scores on all eight QoL dimensions compared with the women without UI. However, the absolute difference was smaller for women with stress incontinence. Women with urge incontinence consult health care service more often than women with stress incontinence. Women with UI who had consulted health care had significantly lower QoL scores than women with UI who had not consulted health care in seven out of eight dimensions.
Conclusions. The QoL, in this female general population, is more affected by women with urge incontinence than women with stress incontinence. Help seeking is associated with substantially lower QoL scores and with urge incontinence.