Characteristics of primary nocturnal enuresis in adults: an epidemiological study


C.K. Yeung, Division of Paediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong, China.



To evaluate the prevalence and characteristics of primary nocturnal enuresis (PNE) in adults in Hong Kong, as there are currently limited epidemiological data in adults.


After a telephone survey, 8534 respondents (3996 males and 4538 females) aged 16–40 years were selected for the study and stratified in age groups. The questionnaire used comprised two parts; the first started with questions mainly about the general demographic background to decrease the sensitivity of the study and to establish rapport. The second part was conducted through an automated telephone interview service, with the questions being asked by recorded messages and the respondents then keying in their responses with no need to converse with an interviewer. This part included questions about enuretic symptoms and a subjective assessment of social and psychological effects of bedwetting, and measurements of the individual's self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale) and depression (The Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale).


Of the 8534 subjects interviewed, 196 had PNE, giving an overall prevalence of 2.3% (2.7% males and 2.0% females); of these 196, 36 (18.4%) also had daytime urinary incontinence. Hence, 1.9% of adults (2.2% males and 1.7% females) had monosymptomatic PNE. Of these, 53% wet > 3 nights/week and 26% wet every night. Prevalence rates remained relatively stable among different age groups, with no apparent trend of a reduction with age. Compared with nonenuretic normal controls, significantly fewer enuretics reached tertiary education (33.4% vs 17.8%, P < 0.01). Bedwetters had a significantly higher incidence of depression and lower self-esteem, and a higher incidence of sleep disturbances than the control group. Among bedwetters, 32–40% felt that there was some effect on their choice of job, work performance and social activities, whilst 23% felt the condition affected their family life and in making friends of either sex. However, there was no significant difference in the marital status. Interestingly, only 34.5% of females and half of males used various methods before bedtime to prevent bedwetting.


Overall, 2.3% of Hong Kong adults aged 16–40 years have persistent PNE. Unlike PNE in early childhood the prevalence remained relatively unchanged with age, suggesting that enuretic symptoms persisting into adulthood are probably less likely to resolve with time. Also, significantly more patients had more severe enuretic symptoms. These findings therefore highlight the possibility that PNE in adults may represent a more pronounced form of the condition, and with a more serious social and psychological effect on affected individuals. Further work is needed to evaluate the pathogenesis and management strategy.