廁所閱讀習慣,你有沒有? Is Reading on the 1)Loo Bad for You?

From the moment Ron Shaoul 2)took it upon himself to investigate the practice of reading on the toilet, 3)scouring medical literature and turning up nothing 4)of note as to its public health consequences, the situation became clear that here, on his hands, was a big job.

Shaoul, who published his study in 2009, 5)lamented that toilet reading was 6)woefully neglected by scientists, considering the habit probably dated back to the emergence of printed books. He 7)mustered some colleagues, drew up a questionnaire and had hundreds of people of all shapes and sizes complete it. What resulted was perhaps the most scientific attempt yet to shine light on a habit that rustles unseen behind closed doors.

The 8)anonymous author of The Life of St. Gregory couldn’t help but notice that the toilet of the middle ages, high up in a castle 9)turret, offered the perfect 10)solitude for “11)uninterrupted reading”; 12)Lord Chesterfield also 13)saluted the benefits, recounting the tale of a man who used his time wisely in the “necessary house” to work his way through 14)Horace. This was but the beginning.

No writer owned the 15)arena of toilet reading more than 16)Henry Miller. He read truly great books on the lavatory, and maintained that some, Ulysses for instance, could not be fully appreciated elsewhere.

From a medical 17)standpoint, there are plenty of questions to ask of toilet reading. Most can be 18)worded in vague, 19)euphemistic terms that convey the 20)gist without 21)delving into 22)coprological detail. Does reading material become irreversibly infused with nasty 23)contaminants when carried into the toilet? How long can unpleasant 24)microbes live on 25)glossy magazine covers or, for that matter, the pages of a newspaper? And what does the straightforward act of reading on the toilet do for 26)bowel movements.

Is Reading on the Loo Bad for You?Val Curtis, director of the Hygiene Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is a self-confessed toilet reader. There is, she says, a theoretical risk. To be 27)blunt, 28)bugs in your 29)poo can get on your hands, be 30)transferred to your reading material, and on to the hands of some other unfortunate. That risk is quite slim, though. “The important thing is to wash your hands with soap after using the loo to get the bugs off,” Curtis says.

Microbes don’t 31)fare too well on 32)absorbent surfaces, and might survive only minutes on newspaper. But plastic book covers and those shiny, smooth surfaces of iPhones and iPads are more 33)accommodating, and it’s likely bugs can live on those for hours. A recent study by Curtis suggests that in Britain one in six mobile phones is 34)contaminated with 35)faecal matter, largely because people fail to wash their hands after going to the toilet.

Shaoul, who works at the Bnai Zion Medical Centre in Haifa, Israel, agrees that there is little to fear from unpleasant bugs when reading in the toilet. Most people who 36)indulge in the habit—his questionnaire pointed to more men and more educated, whitecollar workers—do so at home or at work with their own material, rather than in random, 37) excrement-38)spattered lavatories.

More interesting to Shaoul is whether the simple act of reading on the toilet has an impact on bowel movements. “We thought sitting and reading while you were on the toilet might be relaxing and make things go better,” Shaoul says. “We thought we might cure the world of 39)constipation with our research.”

Shaoul cast his net wide. He received completed questionnaires from 499 men and women, aged 18 to over 65—some unemployed or students, others builders and academics; some from rural villages, others from the city. More than half of the men (64%) and 41% of the women confessed to being regular toilet readers. More often than not, they described their reading material as “whatever is around.” In practice, this usually meant newspapers.

It 40)transpires that toilet readers spend more time on the loo and consider themselves less constipated than non-toilet readers, but other measures of their 41)defecation habits show the two groups hardly differ. Shaoul’s work hints that toilet readers suffer more 42)hemorrhoids—something that made for 43)cautionary news stories around the world—but the effect is 44)negligible.

Finally, Shaoul concluded that reading on the toilet is widespread, 45)alleviates boredom, and is ultimately harmless. This 46)rings true to Curtis. “I use it as distraction therapy. I don’t particularly want to think about 47)crapping.”

自從開始著手調查人們在廁所里閱讀這一習慣時起,羅恩·紹烏爾找遍了醫學文獻,至今仍未發現這一習慣對公共衛生有何重大影響。顯然,在他手頭上的是一項艱巨的任務。

2009年,紹烏爾出版了他的研究,細說起來,廁所閱讀這種習慣可以追溯到印刷書籍出現的初期。他對這種習慣不幸地被科學家們所忽視表示遺憾。他召集了一些同事,草擬了一份調查問卷,找來數百個體型各異的人來填寫。其結論也許是最科學的一次嘗試,可以讓我們了解緊閉的門后那看不見的習慣。

《圣·格雷戈里的生活》一書的匿名作者不禁注意到,中世紀的廁所,位處城堡角樓的高處,給“無干擾的閱讀”提供了完美的隱秘之地;查斯特菲爾德勛爵也對這種好處贊嘆不已,重述了一個男人如何在“內需之室”里明智地利用時間,細讀大詩人賀拉斯的大作。這僅僅是開始而已。

沒有任何作家比亨利·米勒更充分地利用廁所進行閱讀了。他在廁所里閱讀了真正偉大的書籍,并且堅稱如《尤利西斯》等一些作品,在其他地方是不能被這樣盡興地拜讀的。

從醫學角度來看,有很多關于廁所閱讀的問題需要被提出。大部分是模糊、委婉的措辭,只是傳達要旨,而不深究細節。閱讀材料被帶進廁所之后是否會不可避免地沾染上污物?令人討厭的細菌會在光面雜志或者報紙上存活多久?在廁所里閱讀這種簡單直接的行為會對排便有何影響?

瓦爾·柯蒂斯是倫敦衛生及熱帶醫學學校衛生中心的主任,也自 認是一個廁所閱讀者。她說,這種習慣理論上存在風險。坦白來說,糞便中的細菌可能沾到你的手上,轉移到你的閱讀材料上,然后傳到其他倒霉的人手上。不過,這種幾率極微。“切記要在便后用肥皂洗手,洗走細菌,”柯蒂斯說。

微生物在可吸收的表面不易存活,在報紙上可能只能存活幾分鐘。但塑料的書本封面,以及iPhone和iPad的光滑表面,有利于微生物的生長,細菌能在這些東西上存活數小時。柯蒂斯最近的一項研究指出,在英國,六分之一的手機被排泄物污染,很大部分是因為人們如廁后沒有洗手。

在以色列海法的Bnai Zion醫學中心工作的紹烏爾認同,無需擔心在廁所閱讀時會有令人討厭的細菌。大部分沉溺于這種習慣的人——他的調查問卷顯示出越來越多的男士和受教育的白領——會在家里或者公司如廁時閱讀自己的書籍,而不是在隨便哪個濺滿排泄物的茅廁里閱讀。

對紹烏爾來說,更有趣的是這種在廁所里閱讀的簡單行為對排便 會不會有影響。“我們認為在你上廁所時一邊坐著一邊閱讀會讓人放松,排便更順暢,”紹烏爾說,“我們認為通過這次研究也許可以治愈大家的便秘問題。”

紹烏爾把網撒得很廣。他收到年齡介于18歲到65歲以上的499名男女完成的調查問卷——有些是失業人士或者學生,有些是一些施工人員及專業學者;有些來自農村,有些來自城市。超過一半(64%)的男性以及41%的女性承認經常在上廁所時閱讀。通常,他們形容自己的閱讀材料是“找到什么就看什么”。事實上,這通常指的是報紙。

調查顯示,廁所閱讀者花更多時間在排便上,也認為自己比非廁所閱讀者出現便秘的情況要少,但是他們排便習慣的其他指標顯示這兩種人群幾乎沒有什么不同。紹烏爾的研究指出,廁所閱讀者更經常被痔瘡問題所困擾——這給全球的人們敲響了警鐘——但影響卻微乎其微。

最后,紹烏爾得出結論:在廁所里閱讀的現象很普遍,可以緩解無聊,基本無害。這對柯蒂斯而言也是如此。“我利用它來分散注意力。我不希望自己只想著排泄。”