Overweight and Obesity Linked to Higher Risk of Urinary Incontinence for Women

Being overweight or obese is linked with an increased risk of developing urinary incontinence for young to middle-aged women, according to a review and meta-analysis recently published in Obesity Reviews.

The authors wanted to evaluate whether overweight or obesity are risk factors for young and middle-aged women developing incontinence. “Understanding these relationships during this life stage is important as early onset increases the risk for developing severe and persistent incontinence,” the authors write.

The authors conducted a systematic search that returned 497 citations, and they reviewed 14 of these. When compared with ‘normal’ body mass index, overweight was associated with a one-third increase in risk of urinary incontinence, while the risk was doubled in women with obesity. “When estimates were pooled according to urinary incontinence subtype [stress, urge, mixed, and severe] there was no statistical difference in risk,” the authors write. “Overweight and obesity are strong predictors of urinary incontinence, with a significantly greater risk observed for obesity.”

The findings indicate that clinical advice to young women who are obese or at risk of becoming obese should not be limited to metabolic health but should also emphasize the role of excess weight on pelvic floor weakening and subsequent risk of incontinence.

“We know that urinary incontinence can be a complex issue, especially among younger women,” says lead author Tayla Lamerton, of the University of Queensland, Australia. “Understanding overweight and obesity as a determinant of urinary incontinence could play a role in the way we counsel those affected by the condition, and our findings provide a building block to further explore lifestyle interventions for preventing and managing incontinence.”