More adults observed washing hands

Study showed that more adults than ever before were observed washing their hands in public restrooms.

In an observational study sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute (formerly known as the Soap and Detergent Association), 85% of adults washed their hands in public restrooms, compared with 77% in 2007. The 85% total was actually the highest observed since these studies began in 1996. In a separate telephone survey, 96% of adults say they always wash their hands in public restrooms, a percentage that has remained relatively constant over the years.

To perform the survey, researchers discreetly observed 6,028 adults in public restrooms in August 2010 to note whether or not they washed their hands. Researchers returned to six locations in four cities where two previous studies had been conducted: Atlanta (Turner Field), Chicago (Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium), New York City (Grand Central Station, Penn Station), and San Francisco (Ferry Terminal Farmers Market).

Men improved their hand-washing performance the most over past years when it comes to public hand washing. More than three-quarters of men (77%) washed their hands publicly in 2010, compared to 66% in 2007.  The men still strike out more on hand washing in sporting venues, though. Turner Field had the worst percentage for the guys – barely two-thirds (65%) – though that is still better than the 2007 rate of just 57%.  Overall, the rate of women washing their hands in public restrooms improved from 88% in 2007 to 93% in 2010.

The first observational study, conducted in 1996 found only 68% overall washing up in public restrooms, and that declined to an all-time low of 67% when the study was repeated in 2000. The researchers hope that as a result of an increased focus on hand washing in the media, as well as increased public awareness of infectious disease risks, hand washing behavior really is on the up swing.

To contact an expert in your area, visit people.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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