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Dramatic increase in girls cutting back on essentials to afford period products amidst cost-of-living crisis

25th May 2022

Period poverty in the UK shows no signs of subsiding as girls are forced to make increasingly difficult financial decisions to manage their period, according to new survey data released by international children’s charity Plan International UK ahead of Menstrual Health Day (28 May). 

Amidst the worst cost of living crisis for 40 years, the new poll of 1,000 UK girls aged 14-21 reveals that over one in four (28%) are struggling to afford period products, and nearly 1 in 5 (19%) report being unable to afford period products at all since the start of 2022.  

Of them, one in 10 used a foodbank to obtain free period products.  

Lack of knowledge of where to go (44%) or who to ask (38%) to find a source of free period products are the top two barriers preventing girls who have struggled to afford them but have not tried to find a free source.  

Many are facing stark choices - half of girls who struggled to afford period products since the start of 2022 had to cut back on food and groceries to be able to buy them. This number rose dramatically, almost doubling compared to last year.1  

Those struggling to afford period products also report cutting back spending on school supplies (23%, up by a third on last year), and non-prescription health products (19%).  

Shockingly, the vast majority (80%) of girls who struggled or were unable to afford period products have used toilet paper as a substitute for period products, up an eighth on last year. 12% have used socks, 10% have used newspaper/paper and 7% have used other fabric. 

As the cost-of-living continues to rise rapidly, the survey also found that overall, over a quarter (26%) of UK girls are concerned about being able to afford period products over the coming months. 

Of those who are concerned about affording and/or accessing period products in the coming months, the vast majority (80%) cite increasing cost-of-living and interest rates as the reason for their concern, including rising cost of electricity (56%), food (55%), cost of gas (50%). 


Rose Caldwell, CEO of Plan International UK, said:  

“It is devastating that so many girls and young people in the UK are unable to afford the period products they need, and that shockingly high numbers of them are forced to rely on toilet paper as a substitute. 

“Of even more concern, half of girls who struggle to afford period products report cutting back on food to be able to buy them, almost doubling compared to last year.  

“As we look to an uncertain future, many more families will face tough financial choices, and more young women than ever are likely to face issues affording the products they need. Period products are a necessity, not a luxury, and they need to be treated as such. 

“We must commit to ensuring that everyone who needs them gets easy free access to products, receives timely education on periods and feels able to talk about the issues they face without fear of shame or stigma.” 

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