And men are much more likely to express concern than women, according to the results of a large-scale study published in the latest issue of BJU International.
11,521 people aged 40-64 took part in the survey which was conducted in six European countries - France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
At least 300 people with OAB - which affects an estimated one in six Europeans over 40 - were identified and interviewed in each country.
Symptoms of OAB include the need to empty the bladder urgently and more frequently during the day and night. Some people may also have the added problem of incontinence.
"32 per cent of the people interviewed said that their condition made them depressed and 28 per cent reported feeling stressed" says lead researcher Debra E Irwin from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina.
"Yet 48 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men felt that it was not a valid medical condition."
Other key findings included:
- 28 per cent of women and 19 per cent of men said that OAB was ignored by the medical community.
- 79 per cent of men and 74 per cent of women felt that OAB was just something they had to live with and 76 per cent of men and 67 per cent of women saw it as part of the normal ageing process.
- OAB had a negative impact on people's working lives, with 21 per cent concerned about interrupting meetings with frequent trips to the toilet and three per cent reporting that they had changed jobs or been fired because of the condition.
- It also affected people's social lives. 28 per cent felt uncomfortable doing things away from home, 22 per cent of people said that OAB made them feel uncomfortable with people they didn't know and 20 per cent felt uncomfortable with people they did know.
- People who experienced incontinence in addition to OAB reported much higher levels of distress and concern about work and social issues than people who didn't have that added problem.
"It's clear that OAB, whether it's with or without incontinence, has a significant effect on people's lives, including negative effects on their emotional well-being and their ability to feel at ease at work or in social situations" says Dr Irwin, whose co-authors included experts from American, Sweden and the UK.
"OAB is a very common condition, affecting more than 22 million Europeans over the age of 40, yet few people seek medical help.
"Our findings indicate that there is considerable scope for improving how doctors diagnose and treat this condition and for encouraging people with OAB to seek medical care."
For further information and a copy of the full paper contact Annette Whibley, Wizard Communications firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors