A Cross-sectional Exploration of Lower Urinary Tract Storage Symptoms Among a Sample of Female Undergraduate College Students
Lower urinary tract (LUTS) storage symptoms, including overactive bladder (OAB) and urinary incontinence (UI), are common conditions among women with significant health and economic consequences. Much of the existing literature on LUTS focuses on older, often postmenopausal women, and there is limited research available about prevalence, incidence and severity of LUTS in young women. For many young women in the United States, the period from the late teens through early twenties coincides with the period of emerging adulthood and college enrollment. The unique factors influencing women at this stage of development may be influential in understanding prevalence and correlates of OAB and UI later in the life-course. The purpose of this cross-sectional descriptive survey-based study was to explore and describe the experience of urinary storage symptoms, specifically OAB and UI, among female undergraduate college students, and to identify associated factors. Qualtrics online platform was used to create and distribute the survey to a sample of 1,800 female college undergraduate students at a private Catholic university in the northeast. Two instruments previously used to assess LUTS, the ICIQ-FLUTS and LUTS Tool, were combined into the Urinary Symptoms Scale with a one-week recall. Twelve items assessed LUTS storage symptoms of OAB and UI. The final sample consisted of 456 female undergraduate college students with a mean age of 20.3-years-old. The sample was predominantly White non-Hispanic. Most commonly reported symptoms included urgency (47.6%), frequency (52.6%), urinary incontinence (21.3%), stress urinary incontinence (28.8%), and urge urinary incontinence (16.4%). Total severity scores were low and highly skewed towards the lower range (M = 3.31; SD = 3.91). Participants with symptoms, most commonly reported experiencing symptoms rarely or sometimes during the past week. Perceived bother from urinary symptoms mean scores were low (M = 1.77) but extended the full range on a 0 to 10 scale. In this study, perceived bother from urinary symptoms as well as perceived impact of urinary symptoms on activities of daily life (ADLs) were significantly associated with care-seeking and use of self-management strategies. Interestingly, LUTS storage symptom severity was not significantly associated with care-seeking, but it was related to use of self-management strategies in this population. Perception of overall health, history of constipation/IBS, sexual activity, delayed toileting behaviors, and premature toileting behaviors were significant in multivariate analyses when controlling for other factors. Further research on the relationship of these factors and LUTS storage symptoms is needed. This study represented a first step in understanding college women’s experiences with LUTS storage symptoms and identifying the unique personal, behavioral and environmental factors associated with LUTS. The study found that OAB and UI symptoms are common among female college undergraduates. In addition, a number of personal and behavioral factors were found to be associated with LUTS storage symptoms. Given that many health-related behaviors established during college years may persist later in adulthood, identifying experiences and influences of young women’s LUTS storage symptoms is important in informing future research and practice recommendations.