Over half of men in the UK have experienced some symptoms of urinary incontinence (UI) while previous studies may have underestimated the true number of men affected, the charity Prostate Cancer UK has suggested.
A study found that awareness of urinary incontinence in men in the general population was lower than the prevalence of the condition would suggest.
While previous research has suggested that one in 25 men over 40 will experience UI each year in the UK, Prostate Cancer UK’s survey of almost 5,000 people found that the condition could be much more common, and often affected men much earlier in their lives than had previously been believed likely.
The survey polled a group of 2,024 individuals representative of the general population, as well as an additional 2,036 male respondents in the UK, 504 men who experience UI and 251 partners of those men between 22 December 2022 and 3 January 2023.
Over half (51%) of the men surveyed said they had experienced some of the symptoms associated with UI, while one in five said they had experienced symptoms between the ages of 18 to 25.
UI is closely associated with prostate cancer, the UK’s most common cancer among men, Symptoms of prostate cancer can include increased urinary frequency, needing to rush to the toilet, hesitancy, straining or weak flow, a feeling of incomplete emptying, or blood in urine or semen. Among men who receive a radical prostatectomy, a procedure to remove the prostate in the treatment of cancer, 60% will experience urinary incontinence following the treatment.
Prostate Cancer UK said that a lack of public awareness of the condition, coupled with poor provision of services was made it difficult for men with UI to leave the house or cope with mental health issues.
Less than a third of people asked by the survey knew that prostate cancer treatment can can cause urinary incontinence, while a further 60% did not think that men commonly experienced UI.
Nearly eight in 10 men with the condition (78%) said that they felt anxious leaving the home due to a lack of proper facilities, while a third said they found it hard to locate a hygiene bin to throw away used incontinence pads and pants while out in public.
The study highlighted the effect that a lack of understanding is having on men’s mental health. Of those surveyed 28% said they felt depressed about the deterioration of their lives, while this figure rose to 100% among those under 25 with the condition.
Nick Ridgman, head of health information and clinical support at Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘Incontinence affects hundreds of thousands of men across the country and is a frequent side effect of treatment for the most common cancer in men.
‘Yet the research released today showcases a woeful lack of understanding and conversation that is impacting men’s mental and physical health, and has resulted in men not having the facilities they need to live life to the full.’
Following the publication of the report, Prostate Cancer UK and phs Group are calling on the Government to make legislative changes to ensure male toilets provide sufficient hygiene bins.