Life's Little Mysteries

Why do some men take so long to poop?

This guy is ready for a marathon session.
This guy is ready for a marathon session. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you've ever wondered why men take so long to poop, you may have found yourself asking if there's a medical reason. Why else would some men take so much longer than women to take care of their business? 

The answer, however, does not appear to be anatomical. In fact, men might actually be quicker in discharging their defecatory duties than women are. One 2009 study in the journal Gender Medicine sought to investigate the gender differences of various pooping plights. The researchers looked at constipation, stool consistency, the need to use fingers to evacuate, and a host of other less-than-pleasant doody-related conditions. The team concluded that women were more likely to experience "abnormal bowel habits" and constipation than men. 

In other words, women tend to have more bowel-related troubles than men do. So, if anything, it's women who should be spending more time in the bathroom.

Related: Why is poop brown?

A 1992 study in the journal Gut found similar results. A questionnaire designed to assess gender differences in the bowel habits of nearly 1,900 men and women in England showed that while most people, regardless of their gender, don’t enjoy a "conventionally normal bowel function," statistically, it seemed women were more likely than men to face toilet-based challenges. 

But men really do spend more time in the loo. A recent U.K. survey conducted by the bathroom-appliance company UK Bathrooms, which the The Daily Mail covered, revealed that men spent an average of 1 hour and 35 minutes on the commode each week, or nearly 14 minutes a day, compared with women, who spend just 55 minutes a week on the toilet, or almost 8 minutes a day. 

That may mean that men who spend eons in the bathroom are doing more than just pooping. For example, research has found that 86% of men do most of their reading whilst sitting on the toilet, compared to just 27% of women, the UK Bathrooms poll found.

Another 2009 study, published in the journal Neurogastroenterology & Motility, found that of 499 surveyed men and women, more than half of men (64%) and less than half of women (41%) said they regularly read on the toilet.  

Perhaps these men do this because they are seeking solace from life's problems in the loo, Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist based in New York who wrote about how to overcome anxiety in the book "Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days" (Center Street, 2012), told Live Science. 

"Short of a medical explanation for someone spending a long time in the bathroom, there may be psychological reasons," he said. 

They may see toilet time as a way to get away from the bustle of a busy home, he said. “It may serve as their sanctuary and perhaps the only place they can actually have alone time."

It's especially true for fathers with young kids, who exploit the excuse of a prolonged poop for a chance to recollect their thoughts, he said. "I've had some clients tell me that the bathroom allows for the perfect escape from parenting duties," Alpert noted. "It can be a hideout for people because no one ever asks what you're doing in there, even if you take a long time. It can truly be a safe place."

(Let's take a moment to note that fathers spend less time on childcare and household duties than mothers do, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These surveys also find that dads have more leisure time than moms do — perhaps they are squandering their leisure time in the toilet?)

Alpert added that "everyone deserves their privacy to go to the bathroom, and I think some people might be using it for a little more than that and to their advantage." However, sitting on the toilet for an extended period of time can have drawbacks. Doctors caution that sitting (and pushing) for too long on the toilet can cause a build up of pressure in the anus that eventually leads to hemorrhoids

Lengthy lavatorial sessions, moreover, can also be a harbinger of more sinister behavior. "For some people, there may be reasons for concern that might be far more serious — especially if a phone accompanies them to the bathroom," Alpert said. "Many people have corresponded with their side girlfriend or boyfriend while sitting on the can. Still others have watched porn or swiped left or right on their dating apps."

But don't rush to conclusions if the man in your life is spending an unfathomable chunk of time on the toilet; in all likelihood he probably just wants a few extra minutes of alone time. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Benjamin Plackett
Live Science Contributor

Benjamin is a freelance science journalist with nearly a decade of experience, based in Australia. His writing has featured in Live Science, Scientific American, Discover Magazine, Associated Press, USA Today, Wired, Engadget, Chemical & Engineering News, among others. Benjamin has a bachelor's degree in biology from Imperial College, London, and a master's degree in science journalism from New York University along with an advanced certificate in science, health and environmental reporting.