The Washington Post

How toilet paper explains the world

At different stages in our lives, we require more and less of certain hygienic products: First diapers, then mostly toilet paper and menstrual maintenance items, and as bowels become more difficult to control, a different kind of diaper. It stands to reason that the relative popularity of those product categories would reflect a country's age demographics -- and the market research firm Euromonitor has given us a map to prove it.

The map represents potential for future category growth.* You'll notice that prosperous, dynamic economies like the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Africa are expected to buy a lot of toilet paper, which would tend to correlate with a high number of bathrooms per capita. Countries in the developing world with very young populations, like Mexico and much of Southeast Asia, will buy more diapers and nappies (China, in particular, is likely to see a boom in diaper consumption as it relaxes its one-child policy). Interestingly, feminine hygiene products have the most potential in Muslim countries like Iran and Pakistan. And those with low birth rates facing a wave of retirees, like Japan and much of Western Europe, will consume more products for taking care of incontinence.

It's a lot to soak in!

This post has been clarified to reflect that the chart represents future growth, not current sales. 

Lydia DePillis is a reporter focusing on labor, business, and housing. She previously worked at The New Republic and Washington City Paper. She's from Seattle.
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