By Tara Rippin • 13 June 2020 • 15:02
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AT the start of the crisis, toilet paper literally flew off supermarkets shelves as shoppers stockpiled in lockdown.
Scientists began a study of more than 1,000 people in Spain and elsewhere in Europe and Amercica to find out what prompted the panic buying of this particular product.
And they discovered people who felt more threatened by the coronavirus or with certain personality traits were more likely to accumulate toilet roll, as published in the journal Plos One.
The survey took place between March 23 and 29, when the pandemic was progressing and many governments had decreed confinement measures.
Researchers from the Swiss University of Saint Gallen, the University of Münster and the Max Planck Institute claim “the subjective threat of Covid-19 appears to be a major trigger for the accumulation of toilet paper,” but admitted they are “far from understanding this phenomenon in its entirety”.
The level of perceived threat posed by the pandemic is the “strongest” indicator of possible toilet paper accumulation, but about 20 per cent was also based on personality factors such as a tendency to worry or anxiety.
The findings suggest that the perception of coronavirus as a threat “increased significantly” with age and the number of days in confinement.
The study asked 1,029 adults recruited through the media to complete a questionnaire, known as Hexaco, which divides personality traits into six brackets: honesty-humility, emotionality, extraversion, cordiality, scrupulousness, and openness to experience.
Those with an “emotional” profile, who tend to be very worried and anxious, are “more likely” to feel threatened and to accumulate toilet paper.
Those with a profile of “scrupulousness,” which includes traits of organisation, diligence, perfectionism and prudence, the research adds, were also more likely to stockpile.
Participants who said they felt more threatened bought more packages, more often and had more stockpiles, as did older people.
Europeans seemingly stockpiled more than Americans.
While hoarders were slammed for being “somewhat selfish”, the researchers argued that even people with an “honesty-humility” profile stockpiled “if they felt sufficiently threatened”.
They concluded that as toilet roll is not a “life saving product”, the findings support the notion that toilet paper functions as a “purely subjective symbol of safety”.
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Tara Rippin is a reporter for Spain’s largest English-speaking newspaper, Euro Weekly News, and is responsible for the Costa Blanca region.
She has been in journalism for more than 20 years, having worked for local newspapers in the Midlands, UK, before relocating to Spain in 1990.
Since arriving, the mother-of-one has made her home on the Costa Blanca, while spending 18 months at the EWN head office in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol.
She loves being part of a community that has a wonderful expat and Spanish mix, and strives to bring the latest and most relevant news to EWN’s loyal and valued readers.
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