Research with people from different cultural backgrounds shows that the desire to accumulate toilet paper rolls is associated with the fear of Covid-19 and some personality traits.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, a pattern of behavior was observed around the world: people buying all the toilet paper stock in supermarkets. Why? That’s what researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany asked themselves, and then decided to do some research to find out the answer.
In total, 1,029 adults from 35 countries were recruited through social networks. Between March 23 and 29, 2020, participants took a test called Brief HEXACO Inventory, which ranks six broad personality domains. The volunteers also shared with the scientists their demographics, the perceived threat level of Covid-19, their behavior during social distancing, and the consumption of toilet paper in the weeks prior to the study.
The researchers concluded the sense of threat caused by the pandemic was the main factor that made people stock up on toilet paper: those who felt most threatened were more likely to fill the house with this item.
But personality also plays a role: in about 20% of cases, this pattern of behavior occurred in people who tend to worry a lot and feel anxious. Extremely organized, diligent, perfectionist and prudent individuals also stood out among stockers.
The study also found that the elderly stocked more toilet paper than younger people. In geographic terms, Americans stocked more than Europeans.
But, according to the authors, other variables not analyzed in the research can also explain this behavior. “Subjective threat of COVID-19 seems to be an important trigger for toilet paper stockpiling. However, we are still far away from understanding this phenomenon comprehensively,” concludes Theo Toppe, co-author of the study, in a note.