Handwashing on the Downturn

A study funded by The Soap and Detergent Association and the American Society for Microbiology in August 2007 found that only 77% of people washed their hands in public restrooms, while in a separate telephone study, 92% of adults said they wash their hands.  Hmmm, kind of a discrepancy there.

Harris Interactive performed the study.  They conspicuously observed 6,076 adults in public restrooms in Atlanta (Turner Field), Chicago (Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium), New York City (Grand Central Station, Penn Station) and San Francisco (Farmers' Market).  This does not sound like a particularly enticing job if you ask me.

Observers were told to groom themselves while observing and to rotate bathrooms every hour or so to avoid counting repeat users.  Better make sure to wash your hands next time someone fiddles with their hair an excessively long time in a public restroom!

The bad news is that handwashing declined by 6 percentage points from a study 2 years prior.  The guys only washed their hands 66% of the time.  The good news is that 88% of women washed their hands.  So women washed their hands 33% more often then men.  Makes you want to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with you, doesn't it?

From what I could tell, the results were not segregated between going #1 and #2.  Maybe too much information.

The detailed survey results indicated the lowest incidence of handwashing took place at Turner Field at an Atlanta Braves baseball game.  At that location, 351 out of 815, or 43% of men didn't wash their hands.  Well who wants to waste time washing hands while there's a baseball game?  Come on!

In the telephone survey of about 1,000 people, there were some other interesting findings.  Only 73% of diaper changers surveyed said they washed their hands after diaper duty.  Only 34% of people say they wash their hands after sneezing or coughing (o.k. I must admit I don't usually wash my hands after coughing).  And only 86% always wash their hands after using the restroom at home (compared to 92% in public restrooms).

The reality of it is that washing your hands is a simple, effective way to keep germs out of your system.  Just 20 seconds with soap and water will do the trick.