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We Americans Are the Worst at Washing Our Hands

If you're like most of America, you don't wash your hands correctly. Yes, a new report has shown that we are all disgusting, filthy people. The study, from researchers at Michigan State University, found that most of us don't even wash our hands, and when we do, we don't do it right, so we might as well have not done it at all. Gross, just gross. Shame on all of you.

To come to this conclusion, the team of experts monitored about 3,700 people before the pandemic — 40 percent men and 60 percent women — using public bathrooms near Michigan State. They found that 10 percent didn't wash their hands at all and 22 percent used no soap when "washing" their hands. For those that took the time to use soap, they didn't do it long enough. The CDC says in order for washing your hands to actually do anything, you have to do it for at least 20 seconds. Only five percent of those surveyed by the MSU team went past 15 seconds.

Men, unsurprisingly, did worse than women. About 15 percent of men didn't wash their hands, compared to only seven percent of women. And almost 50 percent of men didn't use any soap, compared to 22 percent of women. All this nastiness — beyond just being, well, nasty — has far reaching implications.

"Forty-eight million people a year get sick from contaminated food," Carl Borchgrevink, an associate professor and lead author of the report, told The New York Times. "And the C.D.C. says 50 percent would not have gotten sick if people had washed their hands properly." Not only that, but consider how much money can be lost as a result of bad hand washing practices. As Borchgrevink wrote, "Imagine you’re a business owner and people come to your establishment and get food-borne illness through the fecal-oral route — because people didn’t wash their hands — and then your reputation is on the line. You could lose your business."

One way to get people to wash their hands? Wash them at all times. In a study by London scientists, they found that when people think someone is observing them or they have peer pressure, they wash their hands more. A series of messages was broadcast to people while using the bathroom, and the only one that got more people to wash was "Is the person next to you washing with soap?" Now, who wants to volunteer to be bathroom watchers? We're sure it'll pay great.

[Pic via Flickr - Jar]

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