WASHINGTON, D.C.—Men and women who suffer from overactive bladder (OAB) report significantly greater levels of work limitations compared with those without urinary symptoms, according to a new study presented at the American Urological Association 2011 annual meeting.

Karin Coyne, PhD, MPH, of United BioSource Corporation in Bethesda, Md., and her colleagues conducted a cross-sectional, population-representative survey via the Internet with U.S. men and women aged 18-70 in July and August 2010. The researchers assessed the frequency and bother of urinary symptoms during the past four weeks on a five-point Likert scale. They defined OAB as the presence of urinary urgency (sometimes or often), and/or presence of urgency urinary incontinence (UUI). Dr. Coyne’s group compared the responses of those with OAB to men and women with no/minimal symptoms (NMS).

The overall response rate was 56.7% and a total of 10,000 men and women agreed to participate.  The mean age was 41.8 years.  Using the OAB “sometimes” definition, men and women with NMS were found to be significantly more likely to be currently working compared with those with OAB (men: 76% vs. 57%; women: 59% vs. 45%).

The mean overall work impairment due to general health problems was 19% for men and 21% for women with OAB, compared with 4% in men and 7% in women with NMS. The mean percentage of activity impairment due to general health problems was 22% in men and 24% in women with NMS with OAB compared with only 5% in men and 7% of women with NMS. 

Results using the OAB “often” definition were similar but suggested greater work impairment, and OAB was significantly associated with being currently unemployed among men but not women. The mean percentages of overall work impairment from this study were nearly twice that found in a prior population-based study (EPIC Study) and were similar to those found with asthma (20%) and rheumatoid arthritis (24%).

“I was surprised by the impact on employment status that OAB has, especially when you look at the differences between men and women,” Dr. Coyne told Renal & Urology News.

Previous studies have estimated the indirect costs of the impact of OAB in the United States are $14.6 billion a year.