Incontinence, and in particular male incontinence, is a condition that isn’t often spoken about. Despite this, it affects a significant portion of society, with estimates suggesting that 10% of adult males in the UK suffer from it.1
But how does this condition impact the daily lives of the men affected and what solutions are available?
What is incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary passing of urine. There are different types of urinary incontinence, and each of these types will impact how often a person passes urine involuntarily.
For instance, stress incontinence is caused when the bladder is under stress, such as when an individual is coughing or laughing. Urge incontinence is when an individual feels the sudden need to pass urine, which usually results in an immediate leak. Overflow incontinence is when an individual can’t fully empty their bladder properly, so remaining urine frequently leaks out. Finally, total incontinence is when a bladder can’t retain urine at all, leading to almost constant passing of urine and frequent leaking.2
People may also suffer from bowel incontinence. This condition is the involuntary passing of faecal matter, and symptoms include the sudden urge to poo, accidental soiling of underwear due to leakage and unexpected passing of faecal matter when passing wind.3 Bowel incontinence affects everyone differently, and sufferers may also experience constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and excess wind.
The impact of male incontinence
Although both men and women can be affected by incontinence issues, male washrooms rarely have appropriate facilities for sufferers such as sanitary waste bins within the cubicle, in which to dispose of items such as used incontinence pads or pants.
New research* conducted by Initial Washroom Hygiene has revealed that this takes an incredible toll, with 50% of males with the condition feeling afraid to leave their homes. Inadequate public and work washroom facilities are at the root of the problem, with many sufferers stating that the lack of resources is stopping them from leading normal lives.
The research also suggests that fewer than a fifth (17%) of men have appropriate facilities in the washrooms in their place of work to dispose of sanitary waste. Furthermore, just 36% of men felt that they had the support they needed in public washrooms.
This highlights a severe lack of understanding of this issue, and suggests that a lot more needs to be done in order to support male incontinence sufferers. Substantiating this is the fact that 29% of men with incontinence issues have revealed that they’ve been forced to carry a used incontinence pad with them due to lack of facilities.
Stigma and living in silence
Despite these challenges, many men are afraid of the stigma they will face by revealing their condition. Indeed, the research has also shown that 54% of men do not feel comfortable telling their close friends or family about their incontinence problems, while 44% are too embarrassed to seek medical advice.
In light of this, Initial Washroom Hygiene is taking action to help improve the lives of these individuals by stopping the stigma and campaigning for better facilities, with our new nationwide campaign – ‘Stalls for All’ – that aims to deliver ‘washroom dignity’ for everyone and ensure that people have access to the washroom facilities they need. In the first phase of the campaign we have partnered with charity Bladder & Bowel UK to raise awareness of the challenges male incontinence sufferers face.
Lewis Moody, MBE has also joined the campaign, aiming to break the stigma that surrounds male incontinence. In the below video, Lewis Moody talks to Initial’s Jamie Woodhall about his diagnosis.
Male incontinence – initiating change
The partnership between Initial Washroom Hygiene and Bladder & Bowel UK builds upon both organisations’ individual efforts to ensure washroom inclusivity.
Bladder & Bowel UK supports bladder and bowel health for everyone. It improves awareness of and solutions to continence problems across the country, offering a confidential national helpline, a range of resources, professional training and more.
With six in ten (61%) male incontinence sufferers believing that the Government should legislate to ensure the provisions of better disposal facilities in public washrooms to help those who suffer, Initial Washroom Hygiene and Bladder & Bowel UK are together urging the Government to take immediate action.
Jamie Woodhall, UK Technical & Innovation Manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene comments:
“Everyone deserves the right to access the washroom facilities they need, when they need them. Today’s research reveals the shocking reality that many men in the UK face, but this is a reality that can be easily avoided if simple changes are made across the country. This should be a wakeup call for all businesses or local authorities with a washroom: now is the time to urgently reassess the state of your washrooms and give your visitors, employees and customers the dignity they inherently deserve.”Jamie Woodhall, Initial Washroom Hygiene
Jamie Woodhall, Initial Washroom Hygiene
“Not only do we want to recognise and support anyone who has ever faced an undignified or uncomfortable experience when using public washroom facilities, but we want real change. The Government must recognise that a nation-wide conversation is long overdue, and new legislation would go a long way in helping this disenfranchised group.”
About the research methodology
*The research was undertaken by Opinium on behalf of Initial Washroom Hygiene. The survey sample was over 900 UK male adults. The survey was carried out online between 11th – 12th April 2022.
1 Birmingham University. Continence, Catherine W McGrother and Madeleine Donaldson. Link: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-mds/haps/projects/HCNA/02HCNA3D3.pdf [Last accessed August 22].
2 NHS. Urinary Incontinence. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-incontinence/ [Last accessed August 22].
3 NHS. Bowel Incontinence. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bowel-incontinence/ [Last accessed August 22].