• constipation;
  • faecal incontinence;
  • overactive bladder;
  • community survey

Study Type – Symptom prevalence (non-consecutive cohort) Level of Evidence 4

What’s known on the subject? and What does the study add?

There have been no previous studies examining the overlap of chronic constipation and overactive bladder in the US population. Limited research to date based on samples of elderly, Asian and pediatric populations suggests that there is substantial overlap. The results of this study suggest that the prevalence of chronic constipation is increased in people with overactive bladder who are ≥40 years and should be considered by healthcare providers treating these patients.


To estimate the prevalence and overlap of overactive bladder (OAB), chronic constipation (CC) and faecal incontinence (FI) among a general population sample of adults in the USA.


A cross-sectional internet-based survey of randomly selected panel members who were ≥40 years of age was conducted. Participants reported how often they experienced symptoms of OAB, CC and FI using Likert scales and modified Rome III criteria. Analyses were conducted to examine the overall prevalence of OAB, CC and FI in men and women separately and to characterize the extent of overlap between these conditions in participants with OAB vs those without OAB, and those participants with continent vs incontinent OAB.


The response rate for the survey was 62.2% and the final sample (N= 2000) included 927 men and 1073 women. The overall prevalence of OAB [defined as a response of ≥‘sometimes’ to urinary urgency (i.e. ‘sometimes’ or more often) or ‘yes’ to urinary urgency incontinence (UUI)] was 26.1% in men and 41.2% in women. The overall prevalence of CC was significantly lower in men than in women (15.3 vs 26.3%), but both men and women with OAB were significantly more likely to report CC (22.3 and 35.9% vs 5.7 and 6.7%, respectively, P < 0.0001). The overall prevalence of FI reported ‘rarely’ or more was 16.7% of men and 21.9% of women. Men and women with OAB were significantly more likely to report FI than those without OAB. FI was also more common in participants with incontinent OAB than in those with continent OAB. Logistic regressions controlling for demographic factors and comorbid conditions suggest that OAB status is a very strong predictor of CC, FI and overlapping CC and FI (odds ratios, range 3.55–7.96).


Chronic constipation, FI and overlapping CC and faecal incontinence occur more frequently in patients with OAB and should be considered when evaluating and treating patients with OAB. These findings suggest a shared pathophysiology among these conditions. Additional study is needed to determine if successful treatment of one or more of these conditions is accompanied by commensurate improvement in symptoms referable to the other organ system.