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$400 a year: Essential product 1 in 4 women can’t afford

·3-min read
Australian cash. Old woman's hands holding leather purse.
Australian women have been forced to use unsafe alternatives due to the high cost of continence products. (Images: Getty).

One in four women over50 years old struggle to afford incontinence products, with the average woman in this age group forced to spend around $400 a year on the sanitary items.

More than one in three women in Australia have experienced uncontrollable bladder leaks, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

At the same time, women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia, while one in three over 60 live in income poverty.

It means that the $400 it costs to purchase a year of incontinence products deals a devastating blow to older women’s financial situations, the Always Discreet research found.

In comparison, the average woman of menstruating age will spend $130 on period products over the course of a year.

Nearly four in 10 (59 per cent) of women said they had sacrificed another everyday item to purchase incontinence products, with 51 per cent foregoing food and household essentials, while 34 per cent have put off buying essential clothing and 13 per cent have foregone transport, rent or medicine.

Others have chosen instead to use unhygienic alternatives including cloth from old clothes, tea towels, socks, cotton wool or tissues, paper towel or toilet paper.

Always Discreet ambassador and personal trainer Michelle Bridges said that in her career, she’s worked with “countless women” who have experienced bladder leaks.

“Towards the end of my pregnancy, I could appreciate how they felt – when that moment happens it’s a do I laugh or do I cry moment, but it’s something that certainly connects all of us,” Bridges said.

“It’s hard to watch so many women have their confidence take a beating; not just by experiencing this invisible issue, but also by struggling to financially manage it.”

To mark World Continence Week, Always Discreet partnered with period poverty charity Share the Dignity to support women experiencing incontinence. It will make a donation to Share the Dignity with every Always Discreet product purchased at Chemist Warehouse and Woolworths stores over the course of June.

“It’s heartbreaking to see so many Australian women over 50 living below the poverty line, and that an overwhelming amount are unable to afford necessary bladder leak protection, and in some cases ending up without a home,” Share the Dignity founder and managing director Rochelle Courtenay said on Tuesday.

She said global brands like Always Discreet have the power to ensure no woman is forced to go without essential products.

“We know that at some stage in their life, be it during pregnancy or as they get older, 1 in 3 Australian women experience bladder leaks. It’s therefore crucial all women – no matter their circumstance - have access to the superior protection they need,” Always Discreet senior brand manager Louise McCallum said.

“Every woman deserves to feel invincible and visible.”

1 in 10 men also experience incontinence

More than 1 million Australian men also live with incontinence.

The Continence Foundation of Australia this week is launching BINS4Blokes in a bid to ensure male public toilets also come equipped with sanitary bins for men’s incontinence products.

Many men’s toilets do not have disposal bins for these products, which can act as a barrier to men participating in society.

Incontinence is a common side effect of prostate cancer, the second most common cancer diagnosed in Australian men.

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