Great British public’s top toilet habit is reading

By agency reporter
November 19, 2008

Great Britain’s top toilet habit is reading, with more than 14 million people choosing to look at books, magazines and newspapers to pass the time while they are on the porcelain throne, according to a survey published to mark World Toilet Day today.

The research, commissioned by aid agency Tearfund, reveals that more than eight million people talk while they are on the loo – either on the phone or to their family – and one in five adults send text messages.

The “Toilet Habit” survey also shows that more than five million people think about food – with Londoners topping the table – and that men are more likely to look for a distraction when on the toilet than women.

But Tearfund’s research was commissioned with a serious message in mind. While 75% of people questioned complained about toilets being dirty, unflushed, or having loo roll, more than a third of the world’s population today do not have a clean, safe place to go to the toilet and every twenty seconds a child dies from poor sanitation or unclean water.

Tearfund has launched a campaign to highlight this injustice and is calling on world leaders to tackle the problem by creating a Global Action Plan on Water and Sanitation by 2010.

Tearfund’s Water and Sanitation Policy Advisor, Mari Williams, said: “It’s scandalous that in the 21st century, more than 2.5 billion people living in the developing world do not have a clean, safe place to go to the toilet, and almost 900 million people do not have access to clean water – something we take for granted in the UK.

“Half the people in the developing world are suffering from one or more of the main diseases associated with inadequate water provision and sanitation, like diarrhoea, and half the girls in Sub-Saharan Africa who drop out of primary school do so because of poor water or sanitation facilities. This has to stop.

“World leaders need to take extraordinary action to end this sanitation scandal which is causing misery for billions of people. We are urging people across the UK to join our campaign."

Tearfund’s survey revealed that:

:: Great Britain’s top three toilet habits are reading (39%) texting (21%) and talking (21%).

:: Londoners are twice as likely to meditate on the porcelain throne than the national average (13% compared to 6%) and are the most likely to think about their next meal or eating (18%).

:: The Welsh are the chattiest on the loo with 28% of them talking on the phone or to a family member compared with 18% of Scots.

:: People in the South East read in the toilet more than those from any other region (43%).

:: People living in the North of England are most likely to do the crossword or sudoku (13%).

:: Women are three times more likely to have to queue before using the toilet than men.

:: Some 51% of respondents had encountered a toilet without any loo roll, making it the most common complaint.

:: TNS questioned 2,056 people aged 16-64 between October 9 and16 using an online survey.

To find out how to take action, go to

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.