Skip to main content

Health and social impacts of open defecation on women: a systematic review.

Saleem, M., Burdett, T. and Heaslip, V., 2019. Health and social impacts of open defecation on women: a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 19, 158.

Full text available as:

s12889-019-6423-z.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.


DOI: 10.1186/s12889-019-6423-z


Background The significance of sanitation to safeguard human health is irrefutable and has important public health dimensions. Access to sanitation has been essential for human dignity, health and well-being. Despite 15 years of conjunctive efforts under the global action plans like Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 2.3 billion people have no access to improved sanitation facilities (flush latrine or pit latrine) and nearly 892 million of the total world’s population is still practicing open defecation. Methods The study provides a systematic review of the published literature related to implications of open defecation that goes beyond the scope of addressing health outcomes by also investigating social outcomes associated with open defecation. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) was used to frame the review, empirical studies focusing upon open defecation in women aged 13–50 in low and middle income countries were included in the review. Research papers included in the review were assessed for quality using appropriate critical appraisal tools. In total 9 articles were included in the review; 5 of these related to health effects and 4 related to social effects of open defecation. Results The review identified 4 overarching themes; Health Impacts of open defecation, Increased risk of sexual exploitation, Threat to women’s privacy and dignity and Psychosocial stressors linked to open defecation, which clearly present a serious situation of poor sanitation in rural communities of Lower-Middle Income Countries (LMICs). The findings of the review identified that open defecation promotes poor health in women with long-term negative effects on their psychosocial well-being, however it is a poorly researched topic. Conclusion The health and social needs of women and girls remain largely unmet and often side-lined in circumstances where toilets in homes are not available. Further research is critically required to comprehend the generalizability of effects of open defecation on girls and women.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Prospero registration CRD42019119946. Registered 9 January 2019.
Uncontrolled Keywords:Open defecation ; Women ; Low and middle income countries ; Public health ; Health inequalities ; Social inequalities
Group:Faculty of Health & Social Sciences
ID Code:31738
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:06 Feb 2019 16:11
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:14


Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...
Repository Staff Only -