In which country do people shower the most and where the least? The eternal debate of the toilet beyond the myths

Hygienic practices have adapted to the circumstances of each era, for better or for worse. Today, many myths persist, often condemning one or the other.

Cleanliness and hygiene have been part of our society since ancient times. Despite efforts to cloud the stages of human history with images of dirt and sloppiness, there is much more behind this act: it has not always been done in the same way, of course, because the same resources have not always been available. Nor have we always devoted the same amount of time to it, because we have not always understood time as we do today.

Public baths already existed in Greece 1000 years before the beginning of our era. In fact, they were just following the example of the Orientals, who are considered the first to have built public buildings for intimate toilets (not so intimate at the time). Greek medicine was primarily concerned with personal hygiene, based on the humoral theory that we have already discussed in previous articles. Since then, the toilet has adapted to the circumstances of the time, for better or for worse. Today, many myths continue to surround this practice, often condemning one social group or another. Beyond these myths, let's look at the countries that seem to be most involved in this task.

Grooming, a “dirty trick”.

The journalist Olga Khazan explained a few years ago in The Atlantic that the most recent history of our grooming, or rather of the way we understand the very act of grooming, is linked to “a dirty trick”: in the nineteenth century, a new social class had been delineated, that of the workers, who had now become great masses locked up in factories for endless hours, surrounded by an as yet unforeseen pollution. From this model of work would later be born that of offices, places forever closed. To sell, “the advertising industry had to create pseudo-scientific diseases such as ‘bad breath' and ‘body odor'”.

A few days ago, Twitter user @xruiztru shared on his profile a graph showing the percentage of people who shower or bathe daily by European country. Immediately, the debate took hold and comments poured in, hundreds of them showing an interest in hygiene, but also and above all a lack of unanimity. Perhaps this is because there is no concrete data?

While it is true that it is difficult to limit such a personal work to the generalization of entire countries, we can of course find more statistics than the one that has been discussed on this social network. The graph, in particular, belongs to a study published on the same network in 2021 by the account specialized in statistics @TheGlobal_Index. According to this study, more than 95% of the Italian population showers daily, which seems to make it the cleanest in Europe. Behind them are the Portuguese (95-94%), the Spanish and the Greeks (75-84%).

Hand hygiene

Other countries appear with percentages below 65% of their population. In other words, most Europeans don't shower every day, but what about hands, for example? With the pandemic, the importance of keeping them as clean as possible was once again emphasized. A few years earlier, in 2015, a global survey conducted by Gallup asked its participants, “Do you automatically wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom?

The results, in this case, showed that Bosnians were the cleanest (96%), followed by Turks (94%). It should be noted that, as Big Think points out these high scores in these countries are influenced by wudu, the Islamic procedure of washing hands (and mouth, nostrils, arms, head, and feet) for ritual purification, such as before prayer.

With about 60%, that is, at the bottom of the table, they found Austria (65%), France (62%), Spain (61%), Belgium (60%) and Italy (57%). The lowest percentage, however, was found in the Netherlands. The Dutch are also poor performers in The Global Index statistics, unlike other countries where their position seems to take very different turns depending on the body parts studied.

What about the rest of the world?

If we broaden the scope, according to a study published a few years ago by the Euromonitorspecializing in trend analysis, Brazilians are the most well-groomed people on the planet (they may shower up to 12 times a week on average, or almost twice a day). This is followed by Colombians (10 baths per week) and Australians (8). At the other end of the scale, China: respondents there overwhelmingly said they only bathed once every two days.

But the latest science is coming, and with it, perhaps none of this data is worth bothering with. A Harvard study stated in 2021 that soap contains bacterial agents that can kill the good pathogens that defend our bodies against other less friendly bacteria. However, as explained in another article, a warm or hot shower reduces inflammation and increases nitric oxide levels in the blood, which reduces blood pressure.

So, is it really a good idea to shower every day, even if you don't leave the house? Here's the most important fact: for people with sensitive or atopic skin, it's not a good idea at all, as excessive showering can cause uncomfortable irritation or make it worse. If you've barely moved and feel the need to wash, showering is not the only solution.