By Alyson Krueger
With the spread of the coronavirus, more people around the globe are not only examining their hand-washing habits, but also wondering about those of the people around them. Personal hygiene habits have far-ranging consequences.
There are some things we’ve long suspected about how men and women approach hygiene in the past, said Rosie Frasso, program director of public health at Thomas Jefferson University.
“Traditionally women were more engaged in meal prep and house cleaning and were more likely to do the diaper changing,” she said. “My guess is that these roles made women think about hand washing differently.”
She also points out that women and men have different experiences in the bathroom, making women more conscious of germs. “Women are dealing with seats,” she said.
Past scientific surveys back up the idea that women are the superior hand-washers.
In 2010 a study by the American Cleaning Institute and the American Microbiology Society found that men are less likely to wash their hands even after petting an animal, handling food, coughing or sneezing.
The market research company Ipsos found in 2018 that more women than men agreed that washing their hands after using the toilet is “very important” (91 percent vs. 84 percent). More women also agreed it was “a crucial behavior” after taking public transportation (74 percent vs. 66 percent).
A 2016 paper by the Los Alamos National Laboratory analyzed the results of dozens of studies from around the world to determine what factors influence the adoption of protective behaviors, specifically within the context of pandemics.
“Women are more likely — about 50 percent more likely — than men to practice non-pharmaceutical behaviors, things like hand washing, face mask use and avoiding crowds,” said Kelly Moran, one of the authors of the study. Even when the researchers tested their findings against factors such as culture or a country’s level of development, they found that the gender gap persisted.
Read the full article in the New York Times.