The research for the study was conducted in public restrooms where unidentified observers monitored the hand washing habits of 3,749 people. The results showed that 33 percent of people didn't use soap and that 10 percent didn't wash their hands at all.
“These findings were surprising to us because past research suggested that proper hand washing is occurring at a much higher rate,” said Carl Borchgrevink, associate professor of hospitality business and lead investigator on the study.
According to the Center fo Disease Control and Prevention hand washing is the most effective way to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Failing to wash one's hand properly contributes to nearly 50 percent of illness outbreaks.
The time spent during the hand washing process is a big part of the problem. While the CDC says it takes from 15 to 20 seconds to effectively kill germs, the study found that, on average, people are washing their hands for only 6 seconds.
Other specific findings include:
- Fifteen percent of men didn't wash their hands at all, compared to seven percent of women.
- Only 50 percent of men used soap when washing their hands, compared to 78 percent of women.
- Hand washing was more prominent during the early hours of the day.
- People were less likely to wash their hands if the sink was dirty, and more likely to do so if there was a sign encouraging them to do it.