London has the highest proportion of young women and girls who are struggling to afford period products in the UK, as the cost-of-living crisis fuels period poverty across the country.
A new study by Plan International UK for Menstrual Hygiene Day surveyed almost 1,000 young people aged 14 to 21 in the UK, who had started their periods, about their experiences of poverty.
Across the country, 19% of 14 to 21-year-olds had experienced being unable to afford period products so far in 2022, and 28% has struggled to afford them.
The study found that period poverty is felt most acutely in the older segment of those surveyed, with over four in ten young women aged between 18 and 21 saying they had struggled to afford period products in 2022.
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Broken down by region, it’s young women and girls in the north-east, north-west, east of England and London who are experiencing period poverty hardest: in each region around a quarter of respondents said they had experienced being unable to afford period products so far this year.
Of respondents who had managed to pay for period products but it had been a struggle, London was the highest proportion, affecting 38% of those surveyed.
Of the girls in London who said they had been unable or had struggled to afford period products, 83% said they and their household had cut back on spending to afford them, while 44% said their household had cut back on clothes spending. A third said they had cut back on food.
In London, three-quarters of young girls in period poverty said they had tried to get them for free, higher than the national average.
As well as asking family and friends, young women and girls in London were more likely to have used a food bank or charity, or a supermarket scheme like Morrisons’ Ask for Sandy scheme.
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Of those who hadn’t tried to get free period products, the leading reasons were not knowing where or who to go to, or embarrassment at admitting being unable to afford them.
In London, it was much more common than the national average to not seek free products due to embarrassment over speaking about periods, with almost a third saying it was a key reason.
With the country in the midst of a dire cost-of-living crisis, 41% of 14 to 21-year olds in London say they are very, or somewhat, concerned about being able to afford period products in the coming months, compared to a national average of 27%.
It’s clear the cost-of-living crisis is driving these fears: in April, the energy price cap rose by 54%, and recent reports say it is expected to rise by a further 40% in October.
Of the girls in London who said they were concerned about being able to afford period products in the coming months, more than half said energy bills were a key reason, and 45% said their concerns came from the rising cost of food.
“It is devastating that so many girls and young people in the UK are unable to afford the period products they need,” said Rose Caldwell, CEO of Plan International UK. “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.”