Title: Cleanest Countries

How can health insurance support good hygiene?

Hannah Norton

Jul 7, 2022

When the pandemic hit in 2020, many of us became much more aware of personal hygiene and how important it is to maintain good health. We learned first-hand how easy it is for viruses and bacteria to pass from person to person, and land you in hospital when things don’t go well.

For instances such as these, private health insurance can be invaluable. It not only allows members to opt for treatment in a private hospital and recover in a private room (subject to availability), but also provides opportunity to choose your own available doctor. Depending on your level of cover and what’s included in your hospital policy, your fund may also contribute towards treatment for various surgeries, infections, and diseases when you are admitted to hospital as an inpatient.

As experts in health insurance, we recognise that bad hygiene practises can require extended medical care. That’s why we set out to discover just how bad some people’s cleaning habits can be. We surveyed more than 2,500 adults across Australia and North America about bedding, towels, toilets and teeth and found an alarming portion of the population need to clean up their act.

The findings suggest millions of people neglect their personal hygiene for weeks and even months on end.

Putting dirty rumours to rest

More than half of the respondents in all three countries admit to washing their bedding less than the recommended amount (once a week).1 In fact, one in three confess to washing their bedding as little as once a month at the absolute most. It’s a shocking figure, especially when you consider that it includes a small portion of adults who never clean their sheets despite sleeping in them every night.

While laying in bed each night, many people don’t realise that their bedsheets can become a depository for dead skin cells, sweat, body oils, dirt, and all kinds of other bacteria. That’s why it’s essential to maintain a frequent schedule for washing the sheets.

For the 10.2% of Canadians, 8.4% of Americans and 10.3% of Australians who only clean their bed linen every few months or not at all, it seems they have not made their bed, yet they have no problem sleeping in it.

Australia has some interesting generational results to consider as well. Down under, Compare the Market found that those aged 45+ were the best at cleaning their bedding, as 43-55% of them did so weekly, suggesting that the younger generation has dirtier habits than their older counterparts.

Showered with… dirt?

When it comes to keeping towels clean after a shower, the results are no better. Despite a small portion of respondents claiming to wash their towels after every use, an average of around one in ten confess to washing their towels either every few weeks, months or not at all across all three countries. Canadians were the most likely to neglect their towels when doing a load of laundry, with as many as 3.3% admitting to never cleaning them, or rarely at best.

The most common cleaning time for towels was after a few uses, however this figure still represented less than half of the population in Australia, America and Canada.

By pitting each country’s results against one another, Compare the Market found a stark difference between the cleanliness of the United States and Australians. The survey found that more than twice as many US respondents wash their towels after every use (one in five) than those in Australia (one in ten). Canadians are right in between with one in seven.

E-loo-sive cleaners

Everyone knows toilets can be a nasty place if not cleaned often. In that case, Australians need to pull themselves together because they are more likely than any other country to slack off when it comes to scrubbing the toilet bowl frequently.

Despite a weekly clean (at a minimum)2 being the best for maintaining good hygiene, around one in six are revealed to clean the toilet no more often than monthly. Again, that figure includes an alarming number of people who only do so once or twice a year, or not at all.

A decent few clean their toilets a little more frequently, but still not as often as they should be.

Of the fortnightly cleaners, there are 23.4% in Australia, 15.7% in America and 16% in Canada.

There was a noteworthy divide between genders on the loo scrub, too. While there are consistencies between the frequency of females cleaning their toilets more often than males, the divide is quite significant in Australia and Canada in particular. Of Australians, 70.8% of females prefer to clean the bowl weekly, compared to only 59.1% of males. In Canada, the difference is slightly smaller at 71.8% (females) and 61.2% (males).

Who’s telling the tooth?

Brushing our teeth is one of the most important parts of our daily routine, and doing it each morning and night is integral to fighting oral diseases and infections that can significantly influence our overall health.3 It’s a little alarming, then, that at least a third of the population in Australia and nearly 40% of North Americans admit to not maintaining the habit.

In fact, around 6.6% of Australians, 6.7% of Americans and 8.7% of Canadians don’t pick up their toothbrush any more frequently than once every few days. The results also revealed that North Americans were more than twice as likely to never clean their teeth when compared to those in Australia.

Flossing habits are even more of a mixed bag. Less than one-quarter of Americans floss their teeth the recommended twice a day, and this figure drops to less than one in 6 in Canada (18.0%) and just one in seven in Australia (13.9%).

On the contrary, one in six Australians admit to never flossing their teeth, which is significantly more than the one in ten North Americans who confessed the same. Australians also have the lowest record for flossing twice a day at just 13.9% of respondents, as opposed to 18% in Canada and 21.9% in America. In fact, there are more Australians who admit to never flossing than there are people that floss twice a day.

The importance of cleanliness

Compare the Market spokesperson, Hannah Norton, talks about the importance of maintaining clean habits.

“Our research found that those aged over 65 were more likely than their younger counterparts to regularly clean toilets and bedding, which indicates that young adults could be fostering lazy cleaning habits,” Ms Norton said.

“Keeping a consistent cleaning schedule around your home and for personal hygiene is incredibly important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“While a considerable portion of the population claim to uphold good hygiene practises, there is an alarming portion of people, at times as high as forty per cent, who admit to infrequent cleaning habits.

“Brushing your teeth every few days and waiting months to clean the sheets simply won’t cut it – not only can a clean lifestyle help you to avoid contracting diseases or infections, but it also contributes to a healthy mindset and overall improvement in one’s quality of life.

“Try to maintain frequent hygiene practises such as showering or bathing every day, brushing your teeth twice a day, and washing linen once a week.”

If you struggle to maintain adequate hygiene habits, it may be worthwhile seeking help from a professional. Regular visits to the dentist, for example, can work wonders for ensuring good oral hygiene.

What’s more, having the right health insurance policy that best suits your needs means that extras such as dentistry and mental health support could be included in your cover. Visit Compare the Market to search for a range of options for health insurance policies.

Compare the Market commissioned Pure Profile to survey 504 Australian, 1,010 American and 1,008 Canadian adults in February 2022.