Many Australians are resorting to using toilet paper or other unsuitable alternatives to manage their menstrual cycles due to the cost of sanitary products, according to new research by charity Share the Dignity
A report based on responses from more than 125,000 Australians found that 22 per cent have had to improvise on period products.
Around half of those surveyed said they had worn a pad or tampon for more than four hours because they didn't have enough products to get by.
The report, informed by analysis from data science social enterprise WhyHive and written by Dr Jane Connory of Swinburne University of Technology, revealed that when students do attend school through their period, 74 per cent found it difficult to pay attention.
"Some respondents started their period as early as 10 or younger, so this shows that we need to have an open dialogue around menstruation much earlier, not at age 11 or 12 as is the current approach in the school curriculum," Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay said in a statement.
The report revealed 46 per cent of respondents had skipped school for at least an entire day because of their period.
This was the case for survey respondent Oscar, a 21-year-old transgender man based in Newcastle.
"I definitely skipped school quite a few times," he told AAP. "There were classes I missed because I couldn't deal with it mentally."
Oscar is hoping the research helps people to see period products as a necessity rather than a luxury.
"It is not something that someone should have to fork out extra money for," he said. "We should reduce the amount that these products cost or make them freely available to people."
Oscar said while he was lucky to be able to afford period products the research was valuable in identifying the needs of different people in accessing sanitary pads and tampons.
The report coincides with Share the Dignity's bi-annual Dignity Drive, running throughout August and collecting tens of thousands of period products for those in need.
Donations can be dropped at participating businesses and community groups nationwide. All Woolworths stores are participating from Wednesday.
Australian Associated Press