Sauna bathing frequency in Finland and the impact of COVID-19

Lassi Liikkanen, Jari A. Laukkanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Recent research has revealed multiple potential health benefits of frequent sauna bathing. Finland is a country with extraordinary sauna culture and bathing opportunities. However, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic introduced regulations and unprecedented closures to shared sauna facilities. In this study we aimed to examine the previously unknown baseline bathing frequency and its possible change during the epidemic. Design: We investigated several aspects of sauna bathing with self-reports: the frequency, its possible changes, reasons for change, and beliefs about its health effects among a representative sample of thousand Finns aged 18–75 years. This online survey was administered in May 2020. Results: Before the pandemic, 59 % of our respondents had enjoyed sauna at least once a week. Since the pandemic began, up to 23 % had reduced or stopped their bathing. This was often due to restricted sauna access. However, 11 % of respondents bathed more frequently and attributed this change to seeking relaxation and passing time. These findings demonstrate a surprising flexibility in this health-promoting national pastime. Men were more active bathers than women overall and women under 35 enjoy sauna more seldom than older women. Only 7.9 % of all respondents bathed at least four times a week, exceeding a suggested threshold for maximum health benefits. Conclusions: Finnish people are active sauna bathers. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that the frequency of bathing is dependent on good access to sauna facilities. This flexibility and wide access could be exploited to improve public health in the long term if more frequent bathing became a standard.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102594
JournalCOMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES IN MEDICINE
Volume56
Early online date27 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Oct 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Finnish sauna
  • sauna bathing
  • health benefits
  • COVID-19

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