ComScore

Why Do Men Take So Long in the Bathroom? A Scientific Investigation

Your 5-year-old just spilled a full eight ounces of milk all over the floor and neither one of you is too pleased about it. But just as you start to reach for a wad of paper towels, you see your 2-year-old tearing across the tile floor in her footie pajamas and eating it, hard. There’s a symphony of little kid screams, so naturally you add to the din by yelling for your partner: “Can I get some help over here?!” Alas, your spouse is held up on the toilet, where he’s been for the better half of the morning, and you’re left wondering what the hell he’s doing in there. Yep, men the world-over seem to have a love affair with the toilet…and it’s pissing off their partners. So, what gives exactly? We did a little digging and here’s what we learned.

Is there a scientific reason why men take so long in the bathroom?

First, let’s start by saying that it’s not just in your head—men really do spend more time on the john than women. In fact, a recent online survey conducted by a bathroom retailer confirmed that men spend a total of 14 minutes on the toilet per day, as compared to eight minutes for women. That’s nearly twice as long! (Anecdotal evidence suggests they spend even longer than that, just saying.)

The scientific research, however, does not suggest that there’s a medical or physiological reason for this disparity. On the contrary, multiple studies—like this one published in Gender Medicine—have found that women are more likely to suffer from constipation and other bowel issues that might account for an extended stay in the bathroom. Suffice it to say, something just isn’t adding up, which is why we went to Michelle Caldwell, therapist and clinical counselor with Theara, to find out if psychological factors might be at play.

So why do men spend so long in there?

As much as we wish, for your spouse’s sake, that we had some mind-blowing revelation regarding why men seem to have the most time-consuming bowel movements to pass at the least convenient times, the truth is likely what you’ve suspected all along: They’re retreating to the restroom to get some alone time. The bathroom is a private sanctuary—a place with a locked door where trespassing is typically frowned upon—and men are more comfortable using it to their advantage in times of (emotional) need. In other words, the explanation for this phenomenon is psychological, after all.

Indeed, Caldwell tells us that her male patients consider bathroom breaks to be “an opportunity to get away from the bustle of the home…a chance to reset and have some alone time.” And what exactly are they doing in there, you ask? Again, you probably already sussed this one out. “Many men watch videos, scroll through social media and read the news,” says Caldwell. Basically, they’re doing exactly what you wish you could be doing—taking a little break from the stresses of the day and catching up on the ‘Gram.

For what it’s worth, the expert tells us that there’s nothing inherently wrong with lingering in the bathroom when you need some alone time, so long as it doesn’t become a place of avoidance. Simply put, we all need and deserve a chance to regroup, and sometimes the bathroom is the most practical place to get that need met.

Of course, when one person in a relationship is taking advantage of bathroom breaks to such an extent that their partner isn’t getting a break themselves, or even just the support they need when things are rocky, then something is amiss. (File under your partner always retreating to the lavatory whenever the groceries need to be unpacked or your toddler throws a tantrum.) Bottom line: Talk it through with your S.O. so you can determine whether or not his privy practice has to go. In some cases, the solution might just be that you should start doing the same. And hey, if your kid throws her spaghetti at the wall while you happen to be enjoying some alone time in the bathroom, well, shit happens.

Uh, How Often Should You Poop? Here’s What’s Normal, According to a Gastroenterologist