Former England Rugby star joins calls to level the playing field for male incontinence sufferers

Lewis Moody MBE has joined the ‘Stalls for All’ campaign, which aims to break the long-held taboo that surrounds continence-related issues. Launched by Initial Washroom Hygiene and charity Bladder & Bowel UK, the campaign is working to deliver ‘washroom dignity’ for everyone regardless of age, gender or need, by ensuring that they have access to the washroom facilities they require. 

An estimated 14 million people in the UK suffer with bladder problems and an estimated 6.5 million adults suffer with bowel problems*. Whilst incontinence is typically associated with women or older men, research from Initial Washroom Hygiene has found that nearly two in five (39%) male respondents with the issue are in fact aged between 18-34, a higher figure than those aged 55+ (35%), and aged 35-54 (26%). Furthermore, half of sufferers (50%) are even afraid to leave their homes and are unwilling to discuss their condition with close friends or family.

As Brits head into pubs, rugby clubs and other venues to watch the Rugby Union Autumn Internationals, Moody is encouraging men to speak more openly about their health. Having suffered from ulcerative colitis throughout his playing career, the former England Rugby Union captain is all too familiar with the symptoms of male incontinence – in his case bowel incontinence – and has campaigned to break the stigma around the subject.

Lewis Moody MBE, former England Rugby Union Captain, said:

“Suffering with incontinence was debilitating, but even more so was the taboo that surrounded talking about ‘toilet problems’ and the lack of sanitary waste facilities available. I was at the height of my career when I started experiencing problems. At first, I found it too embarrassing to speak to my teammates, friends and family about what I was going through, but when I did I felt more at ease and able to deal with it.

“Sadly people often think incontinence only affects older people, but it can affect people as young as 10. So it’s important that we create an environment where sufferers feel comfortable sharing their experiences and accessing the support they need. I hope this campaign ignites a nationwide conversation and helps to break down the stigma around incontinence.”

Simon Powell, President of Bradford on Avon RFC, a rugby club local to Moody says:

“Hearing from Lewis and Bladder and Bowel UK has really made me think about the facilities we have in the club, and what should be available for all men to feel comfortable. I am sure that even if a minority of our male members did suffer from incontinence, they would be unlikely to speak up and ask for the waste disposal facilities they need to be able to live a normal life away from home.”

Call for better sanitary waste facilities

While it is normal to have sanitary or period waste bins in female toilet cubicles, the vast majority of public washrooms across the UK do not have sanitary waste bins in male washroom cubicles. This facility is vital for sufferers so that they can discreetly manage their condition when away from the home. In fact, Initial Washroom Hygiene’s research shows that just a fifth (17%) of sufferers have access to dispose of sanitary waste in male washrooms in their offices. Three in ten (29%) have even been forced to carry a used incontinence pad in their bag or coat due to a lack of disposal facilities.

Initial Washroom Hygiene and Bladder & Bowel UK are calling on the Government to help this disenfranchised group, by legislating for the provision of disposal facilities in all public washrooms.

Jamie Woodhall, UK Technical & Innovation Manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene commented:

“It is a shocking reality that many men suffering with incontinence in the UK do not currently have access to the washroom facilities they need. Everyone has the right to a dignified washroom experience - businesses and local authorities need to urgently address this to ensure sanitary bins are available for male visitors, employees and customers.”

Lewis Moody and Initial's Jamie Woodhall discussing male incontinence

Jamie Woodhall and Lewis Moody discuss the stigma surrounding male incontinence.

Karen Irwin, Specialist Nurse and Service Manager, Bladder and Bowel UK said:

“Bladder and bowel problems are a common occurrence, but all too often stigmatised and subsequently undiscussed. Many people with incontinence do not seek help due to embarrassment, lack of awareness of treatment options, or consider incontinence to be a normal part of the ageing process. Incontinence can affect anyone at any stage in life and may be related to other medical issues, for example poor general health, stress, physical disabilities, cognitive impairment, stroke, urinary tract infections, prostate problems, diabetes and many more causes. But there are management options, and bowel incontinence in particular is often treatable, which is why it’s important to speak to a medical professional.

“With severe strains on the NHS in a post-pandemic world, fewer men are visiting their GP to get checked. It is therefore crucial that we create an environment in society where men feel comfortable talking openly about their experiences, and receive the support they really need.”

Discussing the campaign’s goals, Woodhall says:

“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 nationwide 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.