Last updated: 15th February 2023

Wednesday 15th February: New research released today uncovers the alarming truth about the widespread prevalence of male urinary incontinence across the UK, and the taboo causing silent suffering in men.

  • New figures reveal previous assumptions about the prevalence of the condition may be vastly underestimated 
  • Men experiencing the condition become socially isolated, anxious and depressed due to poor provision of facilities to change incontinence products 
  • Prostate Cancer UK and phs Group launch campaign to tackle the taboo surrounding incontinence issues 
  • Government urged to make legislative changes and ensure male toilets provide male incontinence bins  

The report, Binning the taboo: disposing with dignity, reveals that more than half (51%) of the men surveyed, of all ages, have experienced symptoms associated with urinary incontinence. This is leaving nearly eight in 10 men anxious to leave the house.  


Co-authored by Prostate Cancer UK and phs Group, it highlights how the new figures vastly exceed previous estimates about the prevalence of urinary incontinence, which is an under-researched problem.  


Former studies estimated that one in 25 men over 40 will experience urinary incontinence in the UK every year1, but the comprehensive study – with a combined audience of 4750 people including 2,000 general consumers, 2,000 men, 500 men living with urinary incontinence and 250 partners of men living with incontinence– paints a far bleaker picture and reveals the true extent of a condition impacting hundreds of thousands of lives. Furthermore, the new results show that one in five men experience symptoms as early as 18-25 years of age, contradicting the assumption that the condition is only experienced by older adults.   


The new data also shows how society’s awareness of prevalent men’s health issues is dangerously at odds with the reality. More than three in five Brits do not think men commonly experience urinary incontinence, despite hundreds of thousands dealing with the condition each year. Similarly, less than a third (32%) of Brits knew that prostate cancer treatment can cause urinary incontinence in men, despite the fact that as many as one in two (60%) men who have their prostate removed (radical prostatectomy) may experience it.  


One in eight men will get prostate cancer, rising to one in four for Black men. For the over 475,000 men living with or after prostate cancer in the UK, many will experience urinary incontinence as a side effect of treatment for the disease2


Of the men who were asked about the challenges they face when using public washroom facilities: 

  • over a third of men (34%) had found it hard locating a hygiene bin in a public toilet to throw away used incontinence pants and pads 
  • nearly eight in 10 men (78%) feel anxious leaving home due to a lack of facilities 
  • one in four men (28%) feel depressed about the deterioration of their lives, rising to 100 per cent of men with the condition under the age of 25 
  • over a third (38%) leave home less often, contributing to feelings of social isolation. 

As a result, men are resorting to desperate strategies to overcome the near certainty that they will be unable to find somewhere appropriate to throw away used products after leaving home. These include taking a bag out with them that they can empty when back home (38%), asking their partner to keep them in their handbag (34%) or wearing the pads longer than advised (32%), which can cause further health risks. A quarter (25%) acknowledged that they have resorted to flushing them in the toilet.  


Fifty-two-year-old engineer, Steve Baughan, from Gillingham in Kent became incontinent after undergoing a radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer: “The anxiety around going out and the stress of not being able to dispose of pads, or fearing smelling of urine, turned me into a kind of hermit. The isolation and the experience affected me mentally. I would often burst into tears in the evenings. The anxiety related to the incontinence was tearing me apart. The lack of facilities available for me to change my incontinence pads in public added to the pressure I was already under, so I just didn’t go out.  Thankfully I am fine now as I made a steady recovery from incontinence, and was given great support by Prostate Cancer UK , but I believe it’s up to businesses and organisations to step up to support men like me.” 


Today, Prostate Cancer UK, the largest men’s health charity in the UK, and the country’s leading hygiene services provider, phs Group, launch the campaign, ‘Dispose with Dignity’. The campaign will tackle the taboo surrounding male incontinence, backed up by solid measures to ensure that men have proper access to essential facilities and products that will improve their quality of life, including changing HSE guidance to make it mandatory for at least one male incontinence bin to be present in public washrooms.  


Nick Ridgman, head of health information and clinical support at Prostate Cancer UK, commented: “Incontinence affects hundreds of thousands of men across the country and is a frequent side effect of treatment for the most common cancer in men. Yet the research released today showcases a woeful lack of understanding and conversation that is impacting men’s mental and physical health, and has resulted in men not having the facilities they need to live life to the full. Together with phs Group, our “Dispose with Dignity” campaign will tackle that taboo, ensuring political decision-makers hear the voices of men across the country who want change. We look forward to working with phs Group to build a future where men’s lives are not limited by incontinence.” 


A new, dedicated male incontinence bin has been designed by phs Group and Prostate Cancer UK, solving the dilemma men encounter in washrooms up and down the country, with several companies already pledging to provide them to their customers and staff. These include Moto service stations; the first of phs’ customers to sign up to receive the bins. 


Nick Tatum, Chief Customer Officer at Moto, said: “We’re proud to be first motorway services operator to partner with phs and deliver new male incontinence product bins for our customers. For men living with urinary incontinence, travelling, and particularly long-distance travelling, can contribute to increased discomfort and the need to change incontinence products more frequently. We know that a lack of facilities available to them at motorway services can also increase worry and anxiety. This is why we’re partnering with phs to bring discreet male incontinence product bins to our sites. We hope that in doing so our male visitors know that that Moto is a service station they can rely on to provide a safe space for dignified disposal of their incontinence products.”  


With over 120,000 customers in 300,000 locations, phs has a 60-year heritage in supporting businesses and organisations, and as such is uniquely placed to make an impact on the lives of men experiencing urinary incontinence. The campaign follows years of working to raise awareness of issues surrounding another taboo subject, period inequality.  


Matt Brabin, chief executive officer of phs Group, added: “We hope this campaign is a catalyst for change, because it is past time that this conversation takes place. As a business, we are proud to be unafraid to shine a light on issues others might shy away from, and we are truly passionate about breaking down barriers for men, so that they can access the basic hygiene facilities they need to live with dignity, as they should after receiving life-saving prostate cancer treatment.” 


Prostate Cancer UK is also working in collaboration with the APPG for Bladder and Bowel Continence Care? to support their ‘Boys Need Bins’ national initiative, in conjunction with Bladder Health UK?, British Toilet Association, International Longevity Centre, Men’s Health Forum, Tackle Prostate Cancer?and the Truckers Consortium.  The campaign similarly aims to make a legislative change, calling for a dedicated incontinence bin in male toilets to give men the dignity of easy, hygienic and discreet disposal of incontinence pants and pads, stoma bags, wipes and other personal care products. To get the issue on the political agenda across the UK, Prostate Cancer UK is calling for men and those who love them to “make a change in under a minute” and send a pre-written letter to their local MP or political representative today calling for action. Visit their campaign page to find out more: https://prostatecanceruk.org/get-involved/campaigning/incontinence 


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