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Kate Dyson

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Kate is a content writer, social media obsessive and community creator. She's also mum to three kids, two dogs and unsurprisingly, a lover of wine.

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Glossary

For words you might want to know more

Loo Leash

A metaphorical term that describes the restriction women historically faced due to the lack of public toilets, and now encompasses modern-day bladder challenges and societal taboos.

Public toilets

Facilities that are available for use by the general public, providing a place for people to relieve themselves when they are away from home or in public spaces.

Public Health Crisis

National crisis This denotes a significant and urgent problem or situation that affects the health of an entire country, requiring immediate attention and action to address its consequences.

Where Have All the Public Toilets Gone?!

In the United Kingdom, the disappearance of public toilets has become an alarming and often overlooked crisis that affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. As a result of insufficient funding, approximately 60% of public loos have vanished from our cities and towns in the last decade, causing a host of problems that extend far beyond mere inconvenience. 

This decline in public toilets is causing a national crisis and the impact cannot be underestimated.

Jude recently commissioned a YouGov survey and asked 2000 people, living in the UK, for their thoughts on the availability of public loos and how not being able to go to a toilet easily has affected their lives. Sadly, the responses were shocking, and revealed a silent public crisis that impacts every single one of us.

Where have all the loos gone?

The disappearance of public toilets across the UK has been steady over the last decade. The Liberal Democrats recently reported that 14% of loos have left our streets in the last 5 years, bringing the total closure of this much needed public facility to just under 60% over the last decade.

The impact of this loss of our public conveniences is huge, forcing many of us to rethink our daily routines and activities. For many, there is a risk of isolation unless drastic measures are taken to try and control your pee output, like not drinking adequately or holding urine while out and about. In turn, that increases the health implication of not going to the loo, putting additional pressure on local GPs as we experience an increase in UTIs, bladder and kidney infections and require treatment from an already exhausted NHS.

The real impact of the loss of UK public toilets

The absence of public toilets also poses a significant accessibility challenge for many of us. Disabled individuals, new mothers with infants, young children, and the elderly find themselves disproportionately affected by this crisis. If we can't trust that we can go to the loo when we need to, do you really have freedom to live your life as you want, or need to?

"I get this awful anxiety before I leave the house now. If I don't know an area like the back of my hand, I have a constant niggle that there's a chance I might leak in public. It has hugely affected my confidence", shares Sophie, who experienced bladder weakness as a complication post the birth of her youngest child, Baxter. "It's not just me either. Baxter is learning to use the toilet now and when he needs to go, he needs to go! Finding a loo where he can pee feels next to impossible when we are in town. I find I have to nip to a coffee shop and buy a drink just so we can use the toilet, and that's a crazy expense just to let your child wee."

Sophie is just one of many mums who face difficulties due to the dearth of public toilets for both herself, and for her child.

While the lack of toilets is the main problem, the condition of the existing ones puts many people off from using them as they need to.

Jules is 51, and has overactive bladder (OAB) that means she needs to use a toilet often. "I would say that 9 out of 10 toilets - that I can actually find - are in a dire state. They are smelly, unclean, and really unpleasant to go into."

A silent public health crisis

The silence around this issue means that we aren't connecting the dots sufficiently between the lack of public toilets and health issues - such as chronic UTIs, kidney and bladder infections - as a result of having to constantly hold urine in our bodies too long, or dehydrating our bodies.

If you have a condition like stress incontinence and overactive bladder (OAB), this goes further than just a bit of discomfort - the unavailability of public toilets has serious consequences for those living with these conditions. Public loos can make the difference between isolation and leading a full life - and it's no surprise that the fear of not making it to the loo on time in a public place means that for many of us, plans are rearranged or even cancelled.

What's alarming is that it is clear that women are taking drastic measures to cope with the lack of public conveniences. A huge 67% of women said that they regularly dehydrate themselves as they can't trust that there will be a toilet available, should they need to go. This can cause chronic dehydration, which aside from being a leading cause of UTIs, can cause a range of health problems, from headaches and fatigue and even kidney stones.

"The state of toilets in my town are just terrible", says Helen. "If I need to go out shopping or whatever, I just don't drink that morning. I'm parched by the time I get home and my GP told me off because I had a couple of UTIs from not drinking enough."

This was reflected in our research - 41% of respondents reported that they have experienced UTIs, bladder and kidney issues as a direct result of holding pee or not drinking enough fluid.

The Mental Toll

One of the most worrying problems with the silence around this crisis is that it is having an impact on our mental health too. Our research showed that 37% of those surveyed regularly change their plans, or have cancelled meeting friends and family altogether, which is a contributing factor to depression and low mood. Sadly, 33% shared that their mental health has really taken the brunt of this change in their lives, and reported significantly worse mental health as a result.

"Look, it's simple", says Sharon, who is 77 and has incontinence. "If I can't go to the loo easily, if I don't know where it will be, if there's not an easy access for me to go when I need to, I cannot go out. What am I to do? Wee myself in public? Absolutely not. I'd rather stay home than deal with that."

But while Sharon is resolute that she won't lose her dignity in front of others, it comes at a price. "Oh, I am so lonely. My husband passed three years ago, so sometimes it's just me and the television for days on end, until my daughter can visit with her car at the weekend. Yes, I'm very low. My doctor put me on antidepressants and it's helped a bit but it doesn't change things day to day. I don't want to live like this, but what's the alternative?"

Taking a leak isn't a luxury

Going to the toilet should never be a luxury. It's a basic human necessity. Adequate facilities are not just a convenience; they are a fundamental aspect of a functioning society.

Public toilets are an essential facility for the UK population, but they need to be maintained, with regular cleaning and repair where necessary. And of course, this means that funding is needed to improve the existing toilets, and build new public toilets. We all need to be aware of the need for this frankly basic part of the fabric of our town and city infrastructure, so collectively we can educate the public and policymakers to generate the necessary support for change.

Jude’s clinically proven supplements give you better bladder and pelvic floor control, helping you sleep through the night and regain the freedom to live life on your own terms. With just one capsule morning and night, you'll have relief from need-to-go urgency in just 12 week

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