What Kind of People Stockpiled Toilet Paper for COVID-19? Researchers Link Personality Traits

Hoarding Toilet Paper

People who feel more threatened by COVID-19 and rank highly on scales of emotionality and conscientiousness were most likely to stockpile toilet paper in March 2020, according to a new study published June 12, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Lisa Garbe (University of Saint Gallen, Switzerland), Richard Rau (Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat Munster, Germany), and Theo Toppe (the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany).

People Stockpile Toilet Paper

People who feel more threatened by COVID-19 and rank highly on scales of emotionality and conscientiousness were most likely to stockpile toilet paper in March 2020, according to a new study published June 12, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Lisa Garbe (University of Saint Gallen, Switzerland), Richard Rau (Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat Munster, Germany), and Theo Toppe (the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany). Credit: Nori Blume

Following the fast spread of COVID-19 across Europe and North America in March 2020, many people began stockpiling commodities including toilet paper. Some companies reported an increase of up to 700% in toilet paper sales, despite calls from the government to refrain from “panic buying.”

In the new study, researchers surveyed 1,029 adults from 35 countries who were recruited through social media. Between March 23 and March 29, 2020, participants completed the Brief HEXACO Inventory — which ranks six broad personality domains — and shared information on their demographics, perceived threat level of COVID-19, quarantine behaviors, and toilet paper consumption in recent weeks.

The most robust predictor of toilet paper stockpiling was the perceived threat posed by the pandemic; people who felt more threatened tended to stockpile more toilet paper. Partly, this effect was based on the personality factor of emotionality — people who generally tend to worry a lot and feel anxious are more likely to feel threatened and stockpile toilet paper. The personality domain of conscientiousness — which includes traits of organization, diligence, perfectionism and prudence — was also a predictor of stockpiling (p = .048). Other observations were that older people stockpiled more toilet paper than younger people and that Americans stockpiled more than Europeans. The researchers pointed out that the variables studied explained only 12% of the variability in toilet paper stockpiling, which suggests that some psychological explanations and situational factors likely remain unaccounted for.

The authors add: “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.

Reference: “Influence of perceived threat of Covid-19 and HEXACO personality traits on toilet paper stockpiling” by Lisa Garbe, Richard Rau and Theo Toppe, 12 June 2020, PLoS ONE.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234232

3 Comments on "What Kind of People Stockpiled Toilet Paper for COVID-19? Researchers Link Personality Traits"

  1. Mintas Lanxor | June 12, 2020 at 2:00 pm | Reply

    My theory is that tp hoarders are inordinately full of the brown stuff.

  2. It rather depends what you use TP FOR – not everyone just uses it for it’s primary purpose. Do not ask me how I use it, that my business, but I do use more than a normal person & I suspect I am not the only one – so as soon as I knew that shopping was going to be a problem, i knew I needed to stock up on that ! As I said mind your own business, and nobody has made any laws that say you must not use it for anything but your toosh !

  3. Carolyn Zaremba | June 13, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Reply

    I never felt the need to panic buy toilet paper. I bought one packet of 6 and that lasted me a long time. By the time I needed more, the panic buyers had calmed down and there was plenty in my local shop. I am a senior, so I don’t fit into the category described here. I am conscientious about mask-wearing and even glove-wearing where appropriate. I think that way too many people are returning to restaurants in the mistaken belief that the pandemic is somehow “over”. That is not the case.

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