Restroom usage in selected public buildings and facilities: a comparison of females and males

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Women often experience having to stand in line in order to use public restrooms. The primary purpose of this exploratory study was to determine the number and types of activities performed in the restroom, along with the amount of time spent in the restroom, as these factors might influence the revision of plumbing codes and the design of public restrooms. Data were collected by a self administered questionnaire at four sites--an airport, highway rest area, sports arena, and conference center. The subjects were also timed. The sample consisted of 230 male and 224 female respondents.

Males and females were similar in the types of activities performed in the restroom. Urination, washing hands, and checking appearance were the three activities performed most frequently by both genders. Females were more likely to have to stand in line to use the restroom than males, though the wait was usually fewer than five minutes. At two of the sites, airport and sports arena, females, on an average, performed more activities than males.

At all four sites, females spent a significantly greater amount of time in the restroom than did males. For female respondents the mean time ranged from 152.5 seconds (sports arena) to 180.6 seconds (rest area). For male respondents the mean time ranged from 83.6 seconds (sports arena) to 112.5 seconds (airport). There was no significant relationship between age and the amount of time spent in the restroom, for either gender at any of the four sites. The results from two sites, however, showed a slight trend toward older people spending more time in the restroom. There was no clear pattern with regard to explaining the relationship between the amount of time spent in the restroom and the number of activities performed. For males only, there were significant differences among the four sites and the amount of time spent in the restroom. For both males and females, there were significant differences between number of activities performed and site. This research indicates that females need a greater number of elimination fixtures than do males, and that revision of plumbing codes, based on further research, is needed.