Background: While bathing styles vary among countries, most Japanese people prefer tub bathing to showers and saunas. However, few studies have examined the relationship between tub bathing and health outcomes. Accordingly, in this prospective cohort study, we investigated the association between tub bathing frequency and the onset of functional disability among older people in Japan.
Methods: We used data from the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES). The baseline survey was conducted from August 2010 through January 2012 and enrolled 13,786 community-dwelling older people (6,482 men and 7,304 women) independent in activities of daily living. During a 3-year observation period, the onset of functional disability, identified by new certification for need of Long-Term Care Insurance, was recorded. Tub bathing frequencies in summer and winter at baseline were divided into three groups: low frequency (0–2 times/week), moderate frequency (3–6 times/week), and high frequency (≥7 times/week). We estimated the risks of functional disability in each group using a multivariate Cox proportional hazards model.
Results: Functional disability was observed in a total of 1,203 cases (8.7%). Compared with the low-frequency group and after adjustment for 14 potential confounders, the hazard ratios of the moderate- and high-frequency groups were 0.91 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.75–1.10) and 0.72 (95% CI, 0.60–0.85) for summer and 0.90 (95% CI, 0.76–1.07) and 0.71 (95% CI, 0.60–0.84) for winter.
Conclusion: High tub bathing frequency is associated with lower onset of functional disability. Therefore, tub bathing might be beneficial for older people’s health.