Essity B 220.9 (-2.7 SEK) on 25-Sep-2022 17:29

Healthier Conversations for improved well-being

Essity's survey about hygiene and health

Did you know that 68% of people around the world have changed the way they wash their hands due to the spread of COVID-19?Before COVID-19, we also saw that as many as 87% have refrained from using a public toilet, 43% because the toilet lacked toilet paper or soap. And, that 33% are uncomfortable discussing urinary incontinence? Despite being a common condition that new mothers, aging grandparents, young children and even athletes can all experience, their shame, embarrassment and stigma around incontinence that unfortunately still holds many people back from reaching out for support.


Every second year, we launch our Essentials Initiative Survey examining attitudes and behaviors around hygiene and health across the world. We ask 15,000 people from the general public in 15 countries to share their opinions on everything from the number of times they wash their hands each day to the sustainability of the hygiene products they buy. These insights contribute with sparking a local and global conversation. More broadly speaking, we use these findings to break barriers to a more inclusive future where everyone has access to well-being.

This year, we have also looked into the ways hygiene and health attitudes have shifted as a result of the global pandemic.

What did we find?

The importance of handwashing - we can all do something to contribute

If we could take one thing away from 2020, it is the power and importance of handwashing. We found that 7/10 respondents believe coronavirus would spread less quickly if people were better at washing their hands. A similar proportion (68%) have changed the way they wash their hands. Over the years, we at Essity have become increasingly aware of the dual power of hand hygiene. On a biological level, proper hand hygiene removes 90% of contaminants and in some cases, can prevent infections and save lives. On a social level, just knowing that others have washed their hands properly can make someone more relaxed, affectionate, and trusting.


Health stigmas in other areas are still holding people back

Each day, millions of women, men and children refrain from everyday activities because of hygiene and health-related concerns and issues. It may be down to a lack of toilet paper or soap, or something less visible, like social stigmas. On an individual level, this can result in social exclusion, and for society, this leads to a loss of economic value or increased costs. 

This means there are both deeply human and real business benefits to investing in hygiene and health, no matter where you come from. 

For instance, 42% of women have refrained from going to work or school because of matters connected to menstruation. The reasons behind this ranged from severe menstrual pain to social stigmas and period poverty. We as a society need to take better actions to make learning environments and workplaces more accommodating to the basic needs of people who menstruate. 

Incontinence is a ‘silent illness` resulting in people isolating themselves

Our survey results have indicated that many people with incontinence are missing out on everyday life. Almost 2/5 have felt too insecure to use public transport, go to the gym or see a movie at the cinema. We want to spark stigma-breaking conversations to enlighten people that there are ways to manage the condition which could help, so it does not have to stand in the way of life. 


I am happy to see a positive shift in this area though. It would appear that social stigmas around incontinence are weakening. An increasing number of people say someone has spoken to them about their incontinence. Global averages have increased by 5% in comparison to our 2018 Essentials Initiative Survey. One thing that has remained the same, however, is the difficulty that men have in speaking up. Only 11% of people have had a man tell them about their incontinence. Last year I went to a dinner party. One woman was so sad about her father not daring to go out any more because of his incontinence. I sent here some articles, samples and tips. Now, they can enjoy a social life together!

If you are to take one thing away from reading this survey; hygiene and health impacts all of us and we can all contribute in improving well-being. We as individuals, we at Essity and we as global citizens have the power to break barriers to well-being.JosephineEdwallBjorklund.jpg

/ Joséphine Edwall-Björklund, Senior Vice President Communications at Essity.