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A quarter of women struggled to afford period products in the last year, study finds


Nearly one in four people who menstruate in the UK have struggled to afford period products in the last year, new research shows.

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to worsen, impacting millions of people across Britain, a new study by WaterAid has highlighted how this is impacting people on their periods.

A survey of 2,000 British people aged 14 to 50 found that almost one in three (32 per cent) are concerned they may not be able to afford period products in the future, while 24 per cent said they have already struggled to afford products in the past year.

One in five women and girls (22 per cent) have relied on free period products from work, school, a food bank or a charity while 24 per cent have missed social or sporting activities because they could not afford adequate period products.

Aside from the impact period poverty is having on people’s mental wellbeing, it is also putting their health at risk.

While 30 per cent of respondents said they are choosing cheaper brands, 26 per cent are wearing period products for longer than the recommended time in a bid to cut costs.

Additionally, 20 per cent reported using makeshift materials such as toilet paper or sponges in place of pads.

“I am using the cheapest toilet roll I can find to use for periods. It’s not hygienic or recommended, but it’s all I can afford,” one anonymous respondent said.

Ahead of Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28 May, WaterAid is calling on governments to recognise menstrual health as a critical component of gender equality.

The survey found that school-aged girls to be most affected, with two in five admitting that they have missed school or work because they could not afford period products, while 41 per cent said they worried about adding to the financial burden of their caregivers once they start menstruating.

One student said making period products cheaper, and subsequently more accessible, would improve her mental health because she “wouldn’t have the worry” of keeping money aside.

“I wouldn’t worry about the fact that I might not be able to afford period products for my next period which would mean I would miss work and university.”

In January 2021, the UK government abolished the so-called “tampon tax”, which means that VAT no longer applies to period products.

A study published by Plan International UK in May 2021 found that more than a third of girls aged 14-21, the equivalent of more than one million, had struggled to afford period products during the first year of the pandemic.

Some said they had to cut back on other essential items to be able to afford period products, like food (30 per cent), hygiene products like soap or toothpaste (23 per cent) and clothing (39 per cent).

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