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Millions of Australians face hygiene poverty

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Millions of Australians are living in hygiene poverty as the cost-of-living crisis leaves many unable to afford soap, shampoo and deodorant. 

New research reveals that over four million Australians are currently living in ‘hygiene poverty’, with more than 1 in 7 (15%) recently skipping buying essential personal hygiene or household cleaning products because they were unable to afford them. 

The research into the cost-of-living crisis, conducted by leading charity Good360 Australia, also highlights that 1 in 5 Australians are worried about not being able to afford personal hygiene or household cleaning products in the future (20%), and that 18% are concerned about their family having access to the essential products they need to be healthy. 

Hygiene poverty is going without one or more hygiene products because you cannot afford them. It is often a precursor to food and fuel poverty, as people are likely to give up products like shampoo before they go without food. 

According to the research, the high rate of hygiene poverty is having a devastating impact on people’s lives.  

One in ten say the inability to afford personal hygiene or cleaning products has impacted their mental health (10%), while a further one in ten say it’s impacted their physical health.  

Eight per cent of respondents also say they are avoiding social events or missing work due to the impacts of hygiene poverty.  

Meanwhile, the research found that for 14% this is the first time they’ve had issues affording personal hygiene or cleaning products. 

Alison Covington AM, Founder and Managing Director of Good360 Australia, highlighted that the findings are deeply concerning and reinforce the many ‘hidden’ daily issues Australians are grappling with amid the cost-of-living crisis. 

“Our research reveals hygiene poverty is impacting millions of Australians.” 

“It’s heartbreaking to see families having to choose between heating, eating or keeping clean. Hygiene poverty has profound implications not just for physical health, but also for mental and emotional wellbeing,” added Covington. 

“Hygiene poverty is a hidden issue because it can be embarrassing to talk about. It can mean avoiding a job interview because of concerns over body odour, missing work or school due to lack of period products, or students being bullied because of hygiene issues.” 

“These are basic items that most of us take for granted, but for many, they are becoming unaffordable luxuries.” 

According to Covington, in a country as wealthy as Australia, this shouldn’t be happening.  

“Everyone deserves access to basic hygiene and cleaning essentials. It’s time to come together as a community to ensure every Australian has the dignity of cleanliness and the opportunity for good health,” said Covington. 

“Demand for donated personal hygiene and household cleaning products is outstripping supply as the cost-of-living crisis continues to impact households around the country.” 

“That’s why it’s crucial for retailers to step up and donate unsold goods and for governments to step in and help fund the delivery of other essentials like soap, shampoo and toothpaste to people in need.” 

Covington also highlighted that by redirecting these products, we can significantly alleviate this crisis Retailers have the power to make a massive difference in the community, preventing waste and helping millions of Aussies maintain their dignity and health. 

The research also highlights that women, younger people and people living in South Australia and NSW are more likely to be impacted by hygiene poverty. 

Related: More Australians in need as cost of living sees donations drop

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.

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