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Primary Care

Familial risk of urinary incontinence in women: population based cross sectional study

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 14 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:889
  1. Yngvild S Hannestad, post doctoral fellow (Yngvild.hannestad{at},
  2. Rolv Terje Lie, professor2,
  3. Guri Rortveit, post doctoral fellow1,
  4. Steinar Hunskaar, professor1
  1. 1 Section for General Practice, Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen, Kalfarveien 31, N-5018 Bergen, Norway
  2. 2 Section for Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen
  1. Correspondence to Y S Hannestad
  • Accepted 7 September 2004


Objective To determine whether there is an increased risk of urinary incontinence in daughters and sisters of incontinent women.

Design Population based cross sectional study.

Setting EPINCONT (the epidemiology of incontinence in the county of Nord-Trøndelag study), a substudy of HUNT 2 (the Norwegian Nord-Trøndelag health survey 2), 1995-7.

Participants 6021 mothers, 7629 daughters, 332 granddaughters, and 2104 older sisters of 2426 sisters.

Main outcome measures Adjusted relative risks for urinary incontinence.

Results The daughters of mothers with urinary incontinence had an increased risk for urinary incontinence (1.3, 95% confidence interval 1.2 to 1.4; absolute risk 23.3%), stress incontinence (1.5, 1.3 to 1.8; 14.6%), mixed incontinence (1.6, 1.2 to 2.0; 8.3%), and urge incontinence (1.8, 0.8 to 3.9; 2.6%). If mothers had severe symptoms then their daughters were likely to have such symptoms (1.9, 1.3 to 3.0; 4.0%). The younger sisters of female siblings with urinary incontinence, stress incontinence, or mixed incontinence had increased relative risks of, respectively, 1.6 (1.3 to 1.9; absolute risk 29.6%), 1.8 (1.3 to 2.3; 18.3%), and 1.7 (1.1 to 2.8; 10.8%).

Conclusion Women are more likely to develop urinary incontinence if their mother or older sisters are incontinent.


  • Contributors All authors participated in the design of the study, the analyses of the material, the interpretation of the data, and the writing of the paper. YSH is guarantor.

  • Funding The epidemiology of incontinence in the county of Nord-Trøndelag study (EPINCONT) was funded by the Research Council of Norway and the University of Bergen. Additional support came from an unrestricted grant from the Lilly Centre for Women's Health, Eli Lilly.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethical approval This study was approved by the data inspectorate of Norway and by the regional committee for medical research ethics.

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