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Study Finds Only 5% of People Wash Their Hands Properly in Public Restrooms

Seriously, people -- how do we even have to have this conversation? I am disappoint.

Hand Wash

Here’s a story I need your help on, folks, because I can’t tell if it’s depressing and gross or gross and depressing. According to a recent study by Michigan State University, only 5% of people wash their hands properly after using the bathroom. That’s right, folks — 1 in 20 of you are doing that right, and the other 19 are, statistically speaking, disgusting.

For their study, published this week in the Journal of Environmental Health, MSU researchers observed a grand total of 3,749 people using public restrooms. Presumably, you know, just the part where they were washing their hands. Or perhaps more accurately, the part where they were supposed to be washing their hands, and didn’t.

While the fact that just 1 in 20 people took the time to wash their hands correctly seems disappointing enough on its face, the numbers turn into even more of a bummer if you parse them a little further, showing that one third of people used no soap while washing their hands, and 10% didn’t wash at all. Which…eugh.

The numbers are especially dismaying if you’re a dude. We’re…we’re not making a good showing of it, fellas. The report shows that only 50% of us use soapwhen washing, compared to 78% of women, and we’re more than twice as likely not to wash our hands at all.

Some factors, though transcend gender. For example, people were less likely to wash their hands later in the day or evening, suggesting that being more relaxed — say, out to dinner with friends — makes people less likely to wash correctly. On the heartening side, people were more likely to wash their hands when there was a sign reminding them to do so.

In the interest of a small piece of public service: There’s a right way to do this folks, and it’s with hot water, soap, and 20 seconds of due diligence. What can I say — lessons taken from years of renewing food handler’s licenses die pretty hard. Don’t take my word for it, though — here’s a handy reminder from Sesame Street. Because apparently, we need it.

(via Eurekalert, image via flickr, featured image via TerryJohnston)

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