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Who bought all the toilet paper at the start of lockdown

Panic over the coronavirus pandemic saw many South Africans stock up on items like disposable surgical masks, toilet paper, tissues, sanitary wipes and other paper-based hygiene products soared. Photographer: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Panic over the coronavirus pandemic saw many South Africans stock up on items like disposable surgical masks, toilet paper, tissues, sanitary wipes and other paper-based hygiene products soared. Photographer: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 14, 2020

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DURBAN - A new study published on

PLOS One

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using personality surveys has highlighted a few traits common among the people who stockpile emergency supplies during the early days of the coronavirus.

Panic over the coronavirus pandemic saw many South Africans stock up on items like disposable surgical masks, toilet paper, tissues, sanitary wipes and other paper-based hygiene products soared.

According to the study those most likely to have hoarded items like toilet paper were found to be more emotional, more conscientious, and more fearful of Covid-19 than the rest of the population - not entirely a surprise, but an interesting personality profile to consider. The study also suggested that older folks were slightly more likely to purchase more rolls too.

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The finding implies that the rush on many products wasn't so much a selfish act of depriving others, as much an expression of concern for friends and family during hard times.

Researchers from Germany surveyed 966 volunteers from 22 countries, including the U.S. Researchers say what surprised them the most was the similarity in responses no matter which country people came from.

Study co-author Theo Toppe said: “While the study only focused on toilet paper purchases, stockpiling likely wasn’t limited to that. From our point of view, it seems plausible that our pattern of results — more threat goes along with more stockpiling — exists for other commodities.”

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Psychologist Neda Gould, also says she wasn’t surprised by the findings; this study tells us what we may have thought intuitively.

“People who felt threatened by Covid-19 were more likely to hoard and people who tend to be more conscientious, that is those who are future-oriented and orderly, also tend to stockpile,” Gould said. “It’s likely that anxious individuals were hoarding because it gave them a sense of control when so much was out of control,” she said.

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