Undergraduates not so hygiene conscious after all

December 16th, 2008 - 12:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 16 (IANS) Undergraduates not mindful of hygiene were prompted by “gross messaging” to wash their hands more frequently, after visits to the toilet.Researchers posted messages in the bathrooms of two Denver University (DU) undergraduate residence halls. The messages said things like “Poo on you, wash your hands” or “You just peed, wash your hands”.

They contained vivid graphics and photos. The messages resulted in increased handwashing among females by 26 percent and among males by eight percent.

“Fear of spreading germs or getting sick by not washing didn’t mean much to students,” said RenĂ©e Botta, associate professor and study co-author in the department of mass communications and journalism studies.

“What got their attention was the knowledge that they might be walking around with “gross things” on their hands if they didn’t wash.”

Observations in two control dorms over the same four-week period showed handwashing decreased two percentage points among females and 21.5 percentage points among males, said a DU release.

“We tried gross messages, germ messages and you’ll-get-sick messages. And the only ones that stuck was gross,” said Katie Dunker, assistant director of health promotions, one of a team of five who conducted the pilot study.

Other institutions like the University of California Santa Barbara, Wyoming, Colorado State and CU-Colorado Springs want to borrow DU’s techniques in hopes of improving student handwashing behaviour.

The study appeared in the Journal of Communication in Healthcare.

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