New National Survey Shows Lack of Public Restrooms is Widespread Public Health Issue

Ahead of World Toilet Day, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation releases survey results confirming a public health crisis; additional findings show consumers are likely to spend more money at businesses who open their restrooms to the public (all else equal)

NEW YORK, NY, November 17, 2022 — A new survey of U.S. consumers by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation reveals an alarming nationwide shortage of public restrooms, as evidenced by the survey’s findings of widespread challenges faced by respondents in finding open restroom facilities. The lack of public restrooms is an urgent public health crisis: 53% of respondents said that they or a family member had difficulty finding or accessing a public toilet within the last seven days. Plus, nearly 20% of the general public reported having ever had a public bowel or urinary accident – and of those respondents, 43% (almost 8% of the general population) said they’ve had an accident in the past 12 months. 


Seventy-two percent (72%) of those who experienced accidents said they “definitely” or “probably” would have been able to avoid their most recent public bowel or urinary accident if there had been a nearby restroom – making the lack of available public restrooms not just an annoyance but an urgent medical issue. These accidents are not trivial: respondents most commonly used the words “embarrassed or humiliated” to describe their accident experience, and many also described it as traumatizing. 


“Restroom access should be a basic human right, but far too many people in the U.S. can’t easily find an open public restroom. Our survey results confirm an urgent need to rethink and increase how public restrooms are made available and publicized to our communities,” said Michael Osso, President and CEO of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “We have found some concrete and straightforward approaches to the situation, and the Foundation looks forward to working with the private and public sectors to create immediate solutions to this public health crisis.” 


The Foundation announces the survey results ahead of World Toilet Day, November 19, an official United Nations international observance day. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to finding cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – and to improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. The survey results will inform the Foundation’s ongoing efforts to expand restroom access, including the organization’s launch of the Open Restrooms Movement and We Can’t Wait app, which lists nearby public toilets by location via an interactive map.  


Additionally, survey findings spotlight: 


A Nationwide Lack of Open Restrooms

  • 23% of total respondents say they’ve been denied access to a business’ restroom when they asked in an urgent situation.
  • 21% of white vs 27% of non-white respondents reported being denied access, showing that this universally difficult experience is accentuated for non-white Americans. 


Severe Consequences to Public Health 

  • 18% of respondents say they’ve had at least one bowel or urinary accident in public. 
  • 28% of respondents say they’ve planned a day around the availability of a public restroom. 


Low Awareness of Relevant Legislation  

  • Although many U.S. states have passed legislation to require businesses to open their restrooms to the public in the event of a medical emergency, only 10% of respondents in those states were aware that such legislation had been passed – indicating a need for heightened business and public awareness campaigns for these laws. 

The survey results also indicated that moving forward, private businesses have an opportunity to create greater public restroom access and simultaneously build stronger customer relationships. Related findings include: 


Business Can Help Solve the Restroom Crisis 

  • 48% of respondents say they would “probably” or “definitely” spend more money at businesses that open their restrooms to the public
    • Comparatively, only 18% say they would “probably” or “definitely” not spend more money at such businesses
  • When choosing between two similar competing businesses, 61% of respondents say the business with an open public restroom would positively influence their decision where to shop
  • 57% of respondents have visited a specific business because they knew it had an open and well-maintained restroom


The survey respondents were composed of an independent external panel of 1,500 adults across the U.S. Respondents were randomly selected and are representative of national demographics by race and gender. The survey was designed by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and executed in partnership with consumer polling platform, AYTM. 


About the Open Restrooms Movement
The quality of our public restroom infrastructure directly impacts individual and public health: people suffer when they don’t have access to restrooms. For millions of people in the United States diagnosed with IBD or other chronic illnesses, they can experience painful or even debilitating symptoms. For these patients, finding an open public restroom is not a matter of convenience, it can be a serious medical matter. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation launched the Open Restrooms Movement to inspire real-world solutions driven by human kindness and ultimately, to expand restroom access for IBD patients and anyone else in need of a restroom. Read more about the Open Restrooms Movement here.


About the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation
The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation is the leading non-profit organization focused on both research and patient support for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), with the mission of curing Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and of improving the quality of life of children and adults living with IBD. The Foundation’s work is dramatically accelerating the research process through investment in research initiatives, while also providing extensive educational and support resources for patients and their families, medical professionals, and the public. For more information, visit, call 888-694-8872, or email [email protected]

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer-fueled organization dedicated to finding the cures for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. It was founded in 1967 by Irwin M. and Suzanne Rosenthal, William D. and Shelby Modell, and Henry D. Janowitz, M.D.