Life and health insurers should consider gathering data on insurance applicants who stockpiled toilet paper in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hank George, a longtime National Underwriter Life & Health underwriting columnist, has made that suggestion in a new commentary.
He recommended (with his tongue firmly in cheek) that insurers ask whether applicants have accumulated 60 or more rolls of toilet paper by ordinary purchase, or 60 or more rolls “by whatever means necessary.”
- A copy of the Hank George commentary is available, behind a registration wall, here.
- A copy of the toilet paper stockpiling research paper is available here.
- A Hank George article about the insurability of regular marijuana users is available here.
George proposed that the list of answer options could also include “None: I never use the stuff” and “Other.”
George, who emailed after press time to underscore the point that he was joking, drafted the toilet paper aggregation experience question in response to a serious research paper written by Lisa Garbe, Richard Rau and Theo Toppe, “Influence of Perceived Threat of COVID-19 and HEXACO Personality Traits on Toilet Paper Stockpiling.”
Garbe, who is a political science specialist at the University of St. Gallen in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and her colleagues, who are affiliated with universities in Germany, based their paper on results from an online survey that received responses from 996 consumers in 22 countries.
The researchers broke participants down into toilet paper accumulation categories by asking whether they had no rolls; 1 to 4 rolls; 5 to 8 rolls; 9 to 12 rolls; 13 to 16 rolls; 17 to 20 rolls; or 21 or more rolls.
The researchers tried to adjust toilet paper stockpiling data for factors such as a participant’s age, household size, and quarantine or isolation expectations.
Older participants who are not normally hoarders might have accumulated more rolls of toilet paper because they expected to be locked in their homes longer, the searchers wrote in their paper, which was published in June.
The researchers noted that national toilet paper packaging characteristics also affected the numbers.
“Americans stockpiled more toilet paper in their household and went toilet paper shopping less frequently as compared to Europeans,” the researchers wrote. “This could be attributed to the circumstance that, on average, toilet paper rolls come in bigger packages in the US (e.g., up to 36 rolls per package) than in most European countries (e.g., between 8 to 16 rolls).”