Enuresis in South African children: prevalence, associated factors and parental perception of treatment


Margaret W. Fockema, Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, 7 York Road, Parktown 2194, South Africa. e-mail: margaretdh@iafrica.com


Study Type – Symptom Prevalence (prospective cohort)

Level of Evidence 2a

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

Nocturnal enuresis is a common childhood problem. Although its prevalence is known in many countries, no data are available from South Africa and it is difficult to extrapolate data from developed countries to a population with such diverse conditions and resource-poor settings.

This study is the first to report on the 16% prevalence rate and the low level of parental knowledge of enuresis in South African children aged between 5 and 10 years.


  • To establish the prevalence of NE in 5–10 year old South African children in a cross-sectional study using a parent-completed questionnaire.
  • To establish the parental perception and associated factors of mono-symptomatic nocturnal enuresis (MNE) treatment and treatment success rates in 5–10 year old children from South Africa.


  • A total of 4700 questionnaires were distributed to children at 37 selected schools willing to participate from South Africa. Parents anonymously filled out the questionnaire.
  • Data were reported as frequencies and percentages of NE in tables according to different gender and age groups.
  • The Chi-square test compared proportions between groups and Fisher's Exact test corrected for small numbers of observations (n ≤ 5). Age differences were determined using Student's t-test. A P-value ≤0.5 was considered to be statistically significant.


  • The questionnaire's response rate was 72.1%, with 3389 children included in the study.
  • The overall prevalence of NE was 16.0%–14.4% of children suffered from mono-symptomatic NE (MNE). The prevalence of NE in boys was double that in that in girls.
  • Only 28.3% had received some form of treatment, whereas 13.5% had been medically treated by a doctor. Parents’ awareness of treatment modalities available is outdated and most of the management of MNE was done by parents themselves, albeit with low success rates.
  • A positive family history was found in 50.5% of children suffering from MNE.
  • Constipation was a problem in 15.8% of children with enuresis.


  • This is the first study to estimate the prevalence of NE and report on the parental perception and possible associated factors of enuresis in children from South Africa. The study showed that South African children have a similar prevalence rate of NE (16%) when compared with other countries.
  • The possible associated factors with MNE in South Africa include constipation and a family history of enuresis.
  • Finally, there are low levels of parental knowledge of treatment modalities of MNE, leaving many children untreated.