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In the context of a large scale survey of health problems in women aged 50 to 65 years, a study was undertaken on the effects of incontinence on daily life. For this purpose 1442 women randomly selected from the practice files of 75 general practitioners in the eastern part of the Netherlands were interviewed at home (response rate 60%). In cases of moderate or severe incontinence the general practitioner of the woman concerned was asked whether this problem had been diagnosed in general practice. Incontinence was reported in 22.5% of the women. Overall, 77.8% of the women did not feel worried about it and 75.4% did not feel restricted in their activities; even for women with severe incontinence (daily frequency and needing protective pads) only 15.6% experienced much worry and 15.7% much restriction. About a third of the women with incontinence (32.0%) had been identified by their general practitioner. The greater the worries and restrictions owing to incontinence, the greater the chance that the incontinence was known to the general practitioner concerned. Only a small minority of the women who felt severely restricted were not identified by their general practitioner. There was a positive relation between recognized incontinence and a history of hysterectomy. This study contradicts the image of the incontinent woman as isolated and helpless; most women in this study seemed able to cope.