Need the loo? You can bet a packet of toilet rolls there’ll be a long, slow queue of women snaking out of a female public toilet, while men speedily nip in and out of the male loo next door. Standard.
But a new official report has recommended that to address the gender imbalance in toilet queue times there should be two female public toilets for every male one.
With more urinals than cubicles, men, unlike their female counterparts, rarely queue, a Royal Society for Public Health report says.
And it isn’t just convenience the report is concerned about, the research also highlights the health issues that can be caused or exacerbated by having to wait to go to the toilet.
“Failure to provide adequate public loos directly hampers some of the UK’s wider public health efforts, such as curbing obesity,” the report warns.
The report also revealed that more than half the public (56%) practice 'deliberate dehydration' where they don't drink enough water in case they can't find a toilet.
But this can have some pretty serious consequences including dizziness, constipation and headaches.
And there are some other health problems associated with holding your wee. Step forward the dreaded UTI.
“Delaying emptying the bladder can create problems over time such as infections,” explains Mr Rick Viney, Consultant Urologist at BMI Edgbaston and Priory hospitals in Birmingham
“The bladder empties down the urethra, the tube to the outside world. The last third of the urethra is colonised by bacteria that are constantly trying to work their way up the urethra.
“Every time you have a wee you sluice the bacteria back. If there are long pauses between trips to the toilet it gives the colonising bacteria the chance to make it all the way up to the bladder.”
Viney says that women are more prone to infection due to the much shorter female urethra.
The standard ratio of female to male toilets in the UK is 1:1 but because of higher numbers of urinals in male toilets, this is rarely achieved, the Royal Society says.
They are now calling for the UK to follow parts of the US and Canada in introducing a 'potty parity' to better reflect the longer amount of time women need when using the toilet.
It says that "because of time-consuming factors related to clothing, menstruation, and anatomical differences, a fair ratio of toilet provision would be at least 2:1 in favour of women."
A YouGov UK survey in 2017 revealed that 59% of women reported that they regularly queue for a toilet, compared with just 11% of men.
“Our report highlights that the dwindling public toilet numbers in recent years is a threat to health, mobility, and equality that we cannot afford to ignore,” explains Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH.
“As is so often the case in this country, it is a health burden that falls disproportionately on already disadvantaged groups.”
The report said equality of access to toilets was also important for transgender people, anyone with a health issue and the less mobile.
“Public toilets are no luxury: it’s high time we begin to see them as basic and essential parts of the community – just like pavements and street lights – that enable people to benefit from and engage with their surroundings,” Cramer continued.
“It is deeply concerning that amidst a national obesity crisis, at a time when public health policy is to encourage outdoor exercise, our declining public toilet provision is in fact encouraging more people to stay indoors.”