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Hand-washing boosted by shame

15th October 2009

A team of London-based researchers suggest that people are more likely to wash their hands when they have been shamed into it.

hand sanitizer

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene And Tropical Medicine used sensors to examine the reactions to hygiene messages displayed in service station toilets.

The message which produced the highest rate of hand-washing was: "Is the person next to you washing with soap?"

The studied counter 250,000 people using the toilets with their use of soap was monitored by online sensors.

Research says hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of disease and is able to combat the spread of killers such as diarrhoeal disease and flu, as well as hospital-acquired infections.

But when it comes to helping people get into the habit, researcher Robert Aunger said it remained difficult to know what kind of message was most effective at changing everyday handwashing behaviour.

During the study it emerged that 32% of men washed their hands with soap while 64% of women did so.

A variety of messages were flashed onto LED screens and their effect measured with people most sensitive to the idea that others were watching their behaviour.

Mrs Gaby Judah, who led the study, said: "What other people think - what is deemed to be acceptable behaviour - is probably a key determinant in shaping behaviour.”

The study coincided with Global Hand-washing Day to help raise awareness of the fact that good hand hygiene can play a significant role in helping to cut disease.

 

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