Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but don’t look to men for the best guidance on how to do it.
“Proper handwashing not only reduces the spread of COVID-19, it can prevent the spread of other viral illness such as cold and flu,” says the American Academy of Family Physicians. Proper procedure calls for people to “apply a generous amount of soap to the inside and back of your hands as well as your fingertips.”
CNN reports that women are twice as likely as men to practice good handwashing hygiene.
Researchers in the U.K. observed the habits of men and women using restrooms at a busy highway rest stop. They used wireless devices to record how many people frequented the restroom and used the soap dispenser. They collected data over a three-month period logging almost 200,000 visits. The 2009 study revealed that only 31% of men and 65% of women washed their hands with soap, according to CNN.
“It’s a big gap — clearly twice as many women as men were washing their hands,” said Susan Michie, who was an author of the study. Michie, director of the Center for Behavior Change at the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at University College in London, adds that the gender gap may be due to socially programmed behavior, not genes.
“Women are more focused on care than men such as childcare, household care, and personal care,” she said.
CNN reports that a Michigan State University researcher Carl Borchgrevink conducted a similar study in 2013 with shocking results. His study showed that when men did wash their hands, only 50% of them used soap compared to 78% of women.
He suggested that men aren’t as vigilant as women about washing their hands because they may think they’re too macho to fear germs.
“We did talk to some of the men and ask ‘why didn’t you wash your hands?’” Borchgrevink said, according to CNN. “And they would look at us indignantly and say, ‘I’m clean. I don’t need to wash my hands.’ They had a sense of invincibility.”
Michie says this is the ideal time to focus on sending public health messages specifically to men to raise their awareness of the critical role proper handwashing has in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s an excellent idea to target men. It could be really helpful. If women knew they weren’t doing it, they’d get on to them,” she told CNN.
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