Millions of Aussies living in ‘hygiene poverty’

New research reveals that over four million Australians are currently living in ‘hygiene poverty’.

According to the research conducted by Good360 Australia, more than one in seven (15%) respondents recently skipped buying essential personal hygiene or household cleaning products because they were unable to afford them.

It also highlights that one in five respondents 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.

Good360 Australia defines ‘hygiene poverty’ as going without one or more hygiene products because you can’t 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,” says the organisation.

The high rate of hygiene poverty is said to be having a devastating impact on people’s lives. One in ten respondents say the inability to afford personal hygiene or cleaning products has impacted their mental health, while a further one in ten say it’s impacted their physical health. 8% 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% of respondents this is the first time they’ve had issues affording personal hygiene or cleaning products.

A ‘hidden issue’

Good360 Australia founder and Managing Director Alison Covington AM says the findings are deeply concerning and reinforces 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,” she says.

“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. It can mean families avoiding social interactions out of embarrassment, or children not going to day care because their parents can’t afford nappies.

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

Good360’s efforts

Good360, which connects unsold consumer goods with charities and disadvantaged schools helping Australians in need, has seen a surge in demand for personal hygiene and cleaning products, with charities not having access to enough items to support people in need.

Already in 2024, Good360 has connected more than $20 million worth of hygiene items to Australians in need, supporting over 207,000 people.

“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,” says Ms Covington.

“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.

“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.”

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