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Urinary stigma 'hinges on other's perception'

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The severity of the stigma associated with urinary symptoms is characterised by whether the problem is noticed by other people, according to the results of a study.

US researchers wanted to find differences between any stigma associated with the frequency and urgency of urinary problems and the stigma associated with incontinence.

Most stigma research so far relates to incontinence only.

The randomly sampled, population-based epidemiological survey carried out in Boston among 151 people in 2007-08 also sought to describe any racial and gender differences recorded in white, black and Hispanic women and men with urinary conditions.

The Boston Area Community Health Survey found that the non-incontinent respondents said they felt stigmatised because of the frequency and urgency of their urinary conditions.

They said the stigma is rooted in social interruption, loss of body control and speculation by others about their non-specific “problem”, although it apparently hinges on whether the problem is “perceptible”.

Men said they felt stigmatised because they had to visit the bathroom a lot and did not want people to think they were impotent. On the other hand, women said they feared having an unclean body or a compromised social identity. Hispanic people in particular seemed to want to keep their urinary symptoms secret.

The researchers concluded that healthcare professionals should be assessing for stigma sequelae (anxiety or depression, for example) in individuals with frequency and urgency, as well as offering treatment for stress to help get rid of any stigmatisation - perceived or otherwise.

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