Women, Disabled And Homeless ‘Hit Hardest By Closure Of Public Toilets’

Rachel Moss

Women should have double the amount of public toilets than men, a new report highlighting the impact of fewer public loos suggests. 

Because of time consuming factors related to clothing, menstruation and the fact women don’t use urinals, a “fair ratio of toilet provision would be at least 2:1 in favour of women”, the report from The Royal Society for Public Health says. 

More than half (59%) of women surveyed reported that they regularly queue for a toilet, compared with 11% of men. 

Data reveals that 700 council-run toilets in Britain have closed since 2010. The report, which is titled Taking the P***, highlights the health burden of this decline which falls disproportionately on people with ill health or disability, elderly people, women, outdoor workers, and the homeless. 

Three in four members of the public (74%) say there are not enough toilets in their area, with many of us dashing to supermarkets (70%), restaurants (63%) and pubs (57%) when we get caught short.

But this isn’t always convenient – or possible – and the report reveals how closing facilities can impact people’s health and overall quality of life. 

For one in five (20%) people, fear of or knowledge of a lack of facilities nearby can tie them to within a small distance of their home, acting as a ‘loo leash’. The figure rises to two in five (43%) of those with medical conditions requiring more frequent toilet use (such as diabetes or bowel conditions).

This directly hampers some of the UK’s wider public health efforts, such as curbing obesity, plus keeping our increasingly elderly population physically active and socially engaged with the community, the researchers said. 

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In light of the findings, RSPH is calling for the government to make the provision of public toilets compulsory, by providing local authorities with necessary funding to do so in its forthcoming spending review. 

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH said the report “highlights that the dwindling public toilet numbers in recent years is a threat to health, mobility, and equality that we cannot afford to ignore”.

“As is so often the case in this country, it is a health burden that falls disproportionately on already disadvantaged groups,” she said. 

“Public toilets are no luxury: it’s high time we begin to see them as basic and essential parts of the community – just like pavements and street lights – that enable people to benefit from and engage with their surroundings.” 

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