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Phone Pan-Demonium: Half of Brits Use Their Phone on the Toilet

  • People spend 12 minutes a day using their mobile on the toilet and 14 minutes using their tablet
  • This is risky behaviour, as more than 1.8 million people have accidentally dropped their phone down the toilet in the last year
  • Items damaged or lost, having been dropped down the toilet or in the sink, have set people back almost £2.4 billion

 New research from Direct Line Home Insurance reveals half (50 per cent) of people, over 26.3 million adults, use their mobile phone while on the toilet.  On average, they use their phone on the loo for 12 minutes a day, the equivalent of 73 hours or three days per year.  There are serious health risks associated with using a phone on the toilet as bacteria may be spread to the device including E. coli and Campylobacter, which can cause serious intestinal illness and viruses like norovirus.

Mobile phones are not the only electronic devices used on the toilet. One in six adults (8.6 million people) use their tablet on the toilet, while one in eight (6.3 million) even use their laptop on the loo. Those using these devices spend even longer when using the lavatory than they do on their phone, on average 20 minutes per day are spent using a laptop, while 14 minutes a day are spent using a tablet.

Some 21 million people (40 per cent) have accidentally dropped an item down the toilet or sink, proving that using expensive electronic devices in the bathroom is risky. In the last 12 months alone 1.8 million people have dropped their mobile phone down the toilet.  Mobile phones and jewellery are the most commonly dropped items down sinks and toilets (both 23 per cent), followed by money (16 per cent), keys (12 per cent), debit and credit cards (12 per cent) and wrist watches (12 per cent).

While some items can be retrieved before they are lost forever, others are not so fortunate. Jewellery is the item most frequently lost, nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of those who dropped a piece of jewellery down a sink plughole or toilet could not retrieve it, an accident which could be costly, as well as upsetting.

Mobile phones on the other hand are easily retrieved, although not so easily fixed. The majority (90 per cent) of those who dropped their phone down the toilet or sink could retrieve it, but in 43 per cent of cases, the mobile phones were damaged or broken. Tablets (47 per cent) and wristwatches (42 per cent) are also likely to be damaged or broken once they’ve been dropped into a sink or down a toilet.

These accidents have collectively cost Brits £2.4 billion in charges for fixing or replacing lost or broken items as a result of dropping them into the plumbing.  This is in addition to the potential cost of calling out a plumber if the item has resulted in a burst pipe or blockage, which 2.4 million people have had to pay out for.

Dan Simson, Head of Direct Line Home Insurance, said: “As a nation we are so addicted to our mobile devices that we even take them to the toilet. Alongside the health risk of using these devices on the lavatory, taking them to the bathroom will be is costly if they are dropped down the toilet or into the sink.

“If this does happen, we advise people to check their home contents insurance policy to find out if they are covered for accidental damage, as this could save someone hundreds of pounds if needing to repair or replace an expensive item.”

Regional findings

On a regional level, Leeds has the greatest proportion of people who use their mobile phone while on the toilet, with three fifths (60 per cent) of those living in the city doing so. This is followed by people living in Edinburgh (55 per cent), Belfast, Birmingham and London (all at 54 per cent). At the other end of the scale, Nottingham has the lowest proportion of people who use their phone on the toilet, at just 36 per cent, closely followed by Norwich (39 per cent).

Those in Birmingham spend the longest amount of time on their mobiles while on the toilet, at just over 15 minutes per day, while people in Edinburgh spend the least amount of time, just seven minutes per day.

Leeds is also top when it comes to the proportion of people who use their tablet on the toilet. Over a fifth (21 per cent) of people living there admit to doing so, which is tied with Birmingham and London. On the other hand, just one in 17 (six per cent) living in Norwich and Plymouth use their tablet on the toilet. Those in Newcastle are most likely to use their laptop on the lavatory (19 per cent), compared to Southampton, where just four per cent of people do so.

If someone accidentally drops an item down the toilet or into the sink and it’s damaged or completely broken, Direct Line Home Plus customers benefit from accidental damage cover. This means that the insurer will pay for the accidental damage caused to contents within a customer’s home, so they do not have to pay out to repair or replace them.


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