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Sauna bathing reduces the risk of respiratory diseases: a long-term prospective cohort study


Sauna bathing has been linked with numerous health benefits. Sauna bathing may reduce the risk of respiratory diseases; however, no prospective evidence exists to support this hypothesis. We aimed to assess the association of frequency of sauna bathing with risk of respiratory diseases (defined as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, or pneumonia). Baseline sauna bathing habits were assessed in a prospective cohort of 1935 Caucasian men aged 42–61 years. During a median follow-up of 25.6 years, 379 hospital diagnosed incident cases of respiratory diseases were recorded. In adjustment for several major risk factors for respiratory conditions and other potential confounders, the hazard ratios (HRs) 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of respiratory diseases were 0.73 (0.58–0.92) and 0.59 (0.37–0.94) for participants who had 2–3 and ≥4 sauna sessions per week respectively compared with participants who had ≤1 sauna session per week. The multivariate adjusted HR (95% CI) for pneumonia was 0.72 (0.57–0.90) and 0.63 (0.39–1.00) for participants who had 2–3 and ≥4 sauna sessions per week respectively. Frequent sauna baths may be associated with a reduced risk of acute and chronic respiratory conditions in a middle-aged male Caucasian population.

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We thank the staff of the Kuopio Research Institute of Exercise Medicine and the Research Institute of Public Health and University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland for the data collection in the study.


This work was supported by the Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research, Helsinki, Finland. These sources had no role in design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Setor Kwadzo Kunutsor.

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Kunutsor, S.K., Laukkanen, T. & Laukkanen, J.A. Sauna bathing reduces the risk of respiratory diseases: a long-term prospective cohort study. Eur J Epidemiol 32, 1107–1111 (2017).

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  • Sauna
  • Respiratory disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Asthma
  • Cohort study