‘Let’s talk’: Australians urged to open up about incontinence for better understanding and support

Jun 18, 2024
“While sharing incontinence experiences may be uncomfortable at first, overcoming this barrier allows for greater understanding and support from loved ones." Source: Getty Images.

Managing everyday life with incontinence can be challenging enough without the added burden of feeling you can not discuss it with loved ones and medical professionals.

With that in mind, the Continence Foundation of Australia is encouraging Australians to have open and honest conversations with friends, family, and health professionals for World Continence Week (June 17-23).

In line with this year’s theme “Let’s Talk”, CoFA conducted a survey to gather insights into the community’s perceptions and experience of incontinence, the quality of life and well-being of people who experience it, and their carers.

Among the more than 2,000 survey respondents, 74 percent believe that community awareness about bladder and bowel health is insufficient. Alarmingly, 46 percent of those who currently or previously experienced incontinence have not discussed it with their friends or family, marking an increase from the previous year. Over 39 percent of these respondents attributed their silence to embarrassment.

According to Janie Thompson, National Continence Helpline Manager, many people who experience incontinence are afraid to leave their homes to do everyday activities often taken for granted.

“Whether it’s shopping, going for walks or catching up with friends, people with symptoms of incontinence may avoid going out into public all together due to a fear of having an accident, which can have a detrimental impact on their mental health,” Thompson said.

Despite many avoiding conversations about incontinence, among the 33 percent of respondents who had not discussed it with a health professional, most indicated they would be encouraged to do so if the professional initiated the conversation or if relevant information was available.

Considering that over five million Australians experience incontinence, promoting more open discussions about the condition is essential for reducing public stigma and boosting the confidence of those affected.

“While sharing incontinence experiences may be uncomfortable at first, overcoming this barrier allows for greater understanding and support from loved ones,” Thompson said.

“As evidenced by those surveyed, talking with their friends and family about incontinence can have a significant impact in improving lives of the one in four Australians with incontinence.”

It’s crucial for individuals to seek support when facing continence issues. CoFA recommends the following steps to get the help you need:

  • Consult your GP or healthcare professional.
  • Call the Continence Foundation of Australia’s National Continence Helpline at 1800 33 00 66 for free, confidential advice from Nurse Continence Specialists, available Monday to Friday, 8 am to 8 pm AEST.
  • Visit continence.org.au for more information.

Taking these steps can help provide you with the support and guidance you need.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up