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Pandemic made Finns to reduce sauna bathing

As public saunas in Finland were close due to the pandemic, over a fifth of Finns reduced their sauna bathing. Before the Covid-19 countermeasures, Finns typically bathed at least once a week, men bit more frequently than women. Only a small fraction of Finns never go to sauna.

New data about sauna bathing in Finland emerge from a fresh publication of and the University of Eastern Finland. The peer-reviewed study appeared in the Complementary Theories in Medicine journal. It looked at sauna bathing in general and particularly the impact of Covid-19.

The study confirms the devotion of Finns to sauna bathing. 59 % of the respondents bathed at least once a week, every third at least two times a week and 5 % over four times a week. The survey took place in the Covid-19 Spring of 2020. During the pandemic, 23 % reported reductions in bathing, 11 % increases. One thousand randomly selected Finns aged 18 to 75 years took the survey.

figure of sauna bathing frequency
Sauna bathing frequencies in Finland across two genders

Age predicts how frequently women attend sauna

Finnish men enjoy sauna slightly more often than female. Among those who go to sauna at least twice a week, 40 % men qualify , but only 28 % of women do. Among women, 9 % never visit sauna, whereas only 5 % of men say the same.

figure of men and women weekly bathing frequency
Figure of the proportion of men and women who bath at least weekly, showing a slight decrease for youngest women from the average

The most active sauna going group were men under 25 years. Their eagerness was evident in comparison to women of the same age, but no in comparison to older males. Overall, all women under 35 were less frequent bathers than older women. However, even among these young ladies, 37 % enjoyed sauna on a weekly basis.

Private saunas facilitate frequent bathing

The majority of Finns have an access to a private sauna. Among detached house dwellers, 98 % had a sauna, in attached rowhouses 91 %, and in block of houses 64 %. When public saunas closed in Spring 2020, the residents in blocks of houses were mostly affect. Up to 38 % of them reduced sauna bathing, 10 % increased. This was reverse in detached house: 13 % increased and 10 % decreased.

“The availability of sauna clearly affects its use, there’s no doubt. What else what people do during a lockdown? Public saunas are important for Finns, many people prefer the sauna at their gym and losing access to it bothers them” states Dr. Lassi A Liikkanen, the primary author of study and an Adjunct professor of Aalto University, Finland.

Fear of infections caught up

Although sauna closures hit few hard, the clear majority (74 %)  agreed with the policy. This was associated with the fear of infections being transmitted in saunas (67 % agreed). Respondents generally did not believe saunas would provide immunity. However, among those bathing more frequent beliefs about sauna’s positive effects around viral infections were  two to three times more prominent.

“We need more research about the relationship of sauna and health. It would be necessary to follow behaviors and attitudes longitudinally now that we have plenty of results about positive health effects of sauna bathing” recommends professor Jari Laukkanen, the second author of the study.

The study was published by Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal in November 2020 and can be access by this link:  for a limited period of time.

Liikkanen, Lassi A. & Laukkanen, Jari A. (2020) Sauna bathing frequency in Finland and the impact of COVID-19. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 56 (2021) 102594.

Contact for more information

Lassi A Liikkanen, PhD


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Tietoja kohteesta Lassi A Liikkanen

Saunologi ja saunan suunnittelun tutkimusmatkalainen. Johtava nykyaikainen suomalaisen saunan asiantuntija ja Suomen Saunaseuran Löylyn henki -palkittu 2021. Työkseni suunnittelen parempia digitaalisia palveluita. Minulla on pitkä historia tieteellisestä tutkimuksesta ja opetan satunnaisesti Aalto-yliopistossa.

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