Elisa R. Trobridge, MD, of the University of Virginia, and colleagues have found that urinary incontinence occurs in more than twice as many white women as black women. The reasons are not known; neither frequency of symptoms nor risk factors explained the difference. The results were reported in the April issue of the Journal of Urology and were based on a survey of about 3,000 women.
Black women, however, with incontinence experienced significantly more urine loss. Half of black incontinent women described their urine loss as enough to wet their underwear or pads, compared with 37.7% of white incontinent women. Also, while black women had more urge incontinence, white women had more stress incontinence.
Previous studies derived from surveys and clinical evaluations have suggested differences between black and white women in the prevalence and type of urinary incontinence, but those studies had problems with design, population, and other factors.
This study, on the other hand, was a population-based cross-sectional one. Dr. Trowbridge and colleagues examined racial differences in prevalence, frequency, quantity, and type of urinary incontinence in community dwelling women ages 35 to 64. They also investigated demographic, medical history, lifestyle, and obstretric/gynecologic factors that might influence continence status. Estimates were weighted to reflect probability and nonresponse characteristics of the sample, and to increase generalizability of the findings.
The survey was conducted by telephone and included 1,922 black women and 892 white women living in three counties in southeast Michigan. The overall prevalence of urinary incontinence was 26.5%. White women had a significantly higher prevalence (33.1%) than black women (14.6%). There were no differences in incontinence frequency (about 15 episodes each month).