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Incontinence: no laughing matter

Photo: Incontinence: no laughing matter
World Continence Week – June 19-25

Australians are being urged to take the matter of incontinence more seriously during World Continence Week, particularly in light of disturbing new data that suggests the majority of women affected simply laugh it off.

Incontinence affects 4.8 million Australian adults, making it more prevalent than arthritis (3.1 million), anxiety disorders (2.3 million) and asthma (2 million).

A recent national survey* of 1000 women with bladder leakage found that most (72 per cent) “laughed it off” when talking to other women about the issue.

Alarmingly, 85 per cent of the women who laughed it off mistakenly attributed their bladder leakage to ageing or having children, with 45 per cent not bothering to seek treatment because they didn’t consider it a serious enough health issue.
The Continence Foundation of Australia’s new campaign, Incontinence: no laughing matter, urges Australians to take incontinence seriously, and to seek professional help to overcome the issue.

Continence Foundation chief executive Rowan Cockerell said healthcare workers were critical for raising awareness about the prevention and treatment of incontinence.

“By being proactive and raising the issue with patients who may not disclose any bladder or bowel problems, healthcare workers can make a huge difference to their outcomes – and their lives,” Ms Cockerell said.

“We know that incontinence invariably worsens over time if ignored, and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, with both men and women with incontinence, at any age, at higher risk of depression,” Ms Cockerell said.

The prevalence of incontinence is estimated to increase to 6.5 million by 2030, and healthcare workers will be increasingly called upon to provide support to their clients, she said.

“It’s becoming more and more important for healthcare workers to develop a  good understanding of continence-related issues, and to be able to confidently discuss the causes, options and treatments with their patients.”

In recognition of this, the Continence Foundation of Australia has developed a number of accredited courses to support healthcare workers, such as personal care attendants, pharmacy assistants, nurses, allied health professionals and Indigenous health workers. Courses include the Certificate II in Continence Promotion and Care and the Graduate Certificate in Continence Promotion and Management.  For information about other courses go to

The Foundation also offers a wide range of free information resources for individuals, carers and professionals. They can be ordered by phoning the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 or by visiting the Browse resources section of

Healthcare workers are also able to speak with continence nurse advisors on the National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66) for clinical advice, information and resources week days from 8am to 8pm AEST. The service is also available to consumers, and non-English speaking patients can access an interpreter on 131 450.

Health professionals can also download or order posters promoting the theme for World Continence Week 2017, Incontinence: no laughing matter, by phoning 1800 33 00 66 or going to


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