Sauna bathing, health, and quality of life among octogenarian men: the Helsinki Businessmen Study
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Background and aim
Sauna-type bathing has increased worldwide, and it has been related to both harmful and beneficial effects. There are few studies of bathing in sauna in very old age.
The series consists of 524 mostly home-living survivors of the Helsinki Businessmen Study (HBS, mean age 86 years, range 80–95), who in 2015 responded to a questionnaire survey about lifestyle (including sauna bathing), prevalent diseases, and health-related quality of life (HRQoL, RAND-36).
Of the men 57.6% (n = 302) reported all-year round and 17.6% (n = 92) part-year sauna bathing. Sauna was currently used mostly once a week, but 10% bathed more than twice a week. Median time in the hot room was 15 min at 80 °C. Among 45.7% of the men, the habit had decreased with ageing, and 130 (24.8%) did not attend sauna. However, 92.2% of the latter had discontinued an earlier habit, respective proportions 20.7% and 75.0% among all-year and part-year users. Overall, reasons for decreased sauna bathing were nonspecific or related to mobility problems or diverse health reasons (n = 63). The most frequent motivations for sauna were relaxation and hygienic reasons. Of the RAND-36 domains physical function, vitality, social functioning, and general health were significantly better among sauna users than non-users. These differences partly remained after adjusting for prevalent diseases and mobility-disability.
Regular sauna bathing was common among octogenarian men and was associated with better HRQoL. However, reverse causality must be taken into account in this cross-sectional study. The bathing habit seemed to be prudent and had decreased in almost half of the cohort.
KeywordsSauna Lifestyle Quality of life Waon therapy Aged Health
Compliance with ethical standards
This work was supported by the Helsinki University Hospital [Valtion tutkimusrahoitus TYH2014 and TYH2015 to T.E.S], and Academy of Finland (Grant 311492).
Conflict of interest
The authors report no conflicts of interest.
The Helsinki Businessmen Study had ethical approval from the Ethics Committee of the Department of Medicine, Helsinki University Hospital.
Statement of human and animal rights
All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical approval and standards of the institutional research committee.
All participants gave written informed consent.
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