An exploratory study of the psychosocial effects of stress urinary incontinence and coping strategies among military women
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Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) contributes to physiological and psychological hardships for military women especially in deployed settings. This descriptive, exploratory study was conducted to investigate how symptom distress associated with SUI, and barriers to continence affect coping and quality of life (QOL) in military women while in the field environment. Instruments used to measure the outcome variables included the Urogenital Distress Inventory, Incontinence Impact Questionnaire, Ways of Coping Questionnaire, Military Field Barrier Checklist, Military Field Coping Checklist and a demographic data form. Lazarus’ coping theory was used to explore the personal antecedents of demographic variables and symptom distress, and one environmental antecedent of field barriers to continence, in addition to coping and QOL. This sample included sixty active duty military women with SUI stationed at three military posts in Germany. Participants vii were between the ages of 19-62 and 70% were Caucasian. The majority of the women had SUI greater than one year (76.7%). Correlation and regression were used to describe the magnitude and direction of the study variables and examine if the mediating variable of coping affected the relationship between symptom distress and QOL. Research literature substantiates that coping mediates the negative effects of symptom distress on QOL. In this study, as military women with SUI experienced higher levels of symptom distress and increased barriers to continence in the field environment, QOL decreased. As a result, the military women used both emotion focused and problem solving coping strategies to manage the symptom distress associated with SUI. Considering age, duration of SUI, length of time in the field, coping, and symptom distress, symptom distress emerged as the best predictor of quality of life in this sample of military women. However, the distancing form of coping partially mediated the relationship between symptom distress and QOL. This study supported the relationships proposed in the research model. Symptom distress does affect QOL for military women with SUI when in the field environment. However, distancing mitigates that response. Responses to the military field barrier checklist suggest factors, which if addressed, might reduce the burden of SUI for military women. Since deployments are inevitable for military personnel, and SUI affects physical and emotional well-being, more research is needed to better understand the relationships between symptom distress, coping and QOL for military women. This research was funded by TriService Nursing Research Program N03-013.