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Hygiene and health survey reveals stigmas and improved handwashing opportunities

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Stigmas linked to incontinence and menstruation still cause social isolation and inactivity, preventing people from participating fully in society and resulting in the loss of millions of work and school days every year. However, good opportunities still exist to improve handwashing routines. More can also be done to nudge young people to be more considerate as the pandemic rolls on. These are some of the observations in Essity’s biennial Essentials Initiative Survey 2020-2021.

In the survey, Essity examines the connection between health, hygiene, and people’s well-being by talking to 15,000 participants in 15 different countries. This year, an additional 10,000 people in ten countries were asked about their attitudes and behaviors during COVID-19.

The survey covers the topics of incontinence, menstruation, age differences, public health, public hygiene and sustainability. A special interest is taken in researching stigmas and taboos.

“Social stigmas around especially incontinence and menstruation unfortunately lead to many avoiding social activities and isolating themselves. The survey results clearly show that there is a great deal left to do to break barriers to well-being, and that we need to broaden awareness of solutions that are actually effective and can improve people’s daily life,” says Joséphine Edwall-Björklund, Senior Vice President Communication at Essity.

This year’s survey also identifies where there is potential to improve attitudes and hygiene behaviors with regard to COVID-19.

“For many years we have educated about the importance of proper handwashing, something that is more important than ever. Along with our partners, we will maintain our focus on providing education on the importance of hand hygiene and ensuring that, especially young people, adopt good hand hygiene practices at an early stage. This is a good way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and other infections,” says Edwall-Björklund.

      Excerpts from the survey:

  • 42% of women have refrained from going to work/school because of matters connected to menstruation.
  • 1 in 3 of those that have refrained from going to work/school due to menstruation, say it’s because they lack access to clean and safe toilets.
  • 1 in 3 that miss school or work due to menstruation do so because of social stigma.
  • 38% of people suffering from incontinence refrain from using public transport.
  • 87% refrain from using a public toilet, 43% of them do so because the facility lacked toilet paper or soap.

COVID-19 related:

  • People wash their hands in average 10 times a day; an increase compared to hand hygiene routines before the pandemic.
  • 62% wash their hands for 20 seconds or more; a recommended time for handwashing.
  • Men wash hands nine times a day, women wash hands twelve times a day.
  • 18-25-year old’s shake hands, walk close to others, hug, kiss, touch objects or surfaces, and touch strangers the most out of all age groups.
  • Over 40% refrain to use gyms, public toilets or travel by public transport.
  • 60% would feel safer visiting crowded public spaces if they provided more hand hygiene stations/alternatives.
  • People trust experts to the same extent that they trust their own gut feeling when it comes to hand hygiene recommendations.

Click here to read full survey.

About the survey
In this global web survey, conducted biennially, we gather insights from general public from about 15.000 respondents in 15 countries aged 16-85 years. The most recent Essentials Initiative survey covers a wide variety of topics from sustainability, public hygiene, incontinence and menstruation, and general health stigmas. This study highlights attitudes, behaviors and mindsets around a broad range of hygiene and health areas. The field research was carried out December 2019 to January 2020 and was complemented in July 2020 with a deep dive in 10 countries around hygiene and health questions around the coronavirus pandemic.

For further information, please contact:
Henrik Sjöström, Media Relations Manager, +46 8 788 51 36, henrik.sjostrom@essity.com

Essity is a leading global hygiene and health company. We are dedicated to improving well-being through our products and services. Sales are conducted in approximately 150 countries under the leading global brands TENA and Tork, and other strong brands, such as JOBST, Leukoplast, Libero, Libresse, Lotus, Nosotras, Saba, Tempo, Vinda and Zewa. Essity has about 46,000 employees. Net sales in 2019 amounted to approximately SEK 129bn (EUR 12.2bn). The company’s headquarters is located in Stockholm, Sweden, and Essity is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm. Essity breaks barriers to well-being and contributes to a healthy, sustainable and circular society. More information at www.essity.com.