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More people are remembering to wash their hands, research finds

More people are remembering to wash their hands during the pandemic, but some groups still need a reminder, according to new research published Thursday....

Posted: Oct 8, 2020 3:29 PM
Updated: Oct 8, 2020 3:45 PM

More people are remembering to wash their hands during the pandemic, but some groups still need a reminder, according to new research published Thursday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at how likely adults were to say they had remembered to wash their hands in six scenarios: after using the bathroom at home; after using the bathroom in public; after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose; before eating at home; before eating at a restaurant; and before preparing food at home.

Comparing October 2019 with June 2020, the odds of a person remembering to wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or nose blowing were 2.3 times higher in 2020; before eating at a restaurant were 2.0 times higher; and before eating at home were 1.7 times higher, according to research published in the CDC's Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly.

In 2020, 71.2% of participants reported remembering to wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their noses compared with 53.3% in 2019. For eating at a restaurant, the number increased from 55.2% in 2019 to 70.6% in 2020 and before eating it home it went from 62.8% in 2019 to 74.4% in 2020.

Hand hygiene is one key way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, as well as other other pathogens.

Men and women both reported washing their hands more frequently before eating at home or in a restaurant and after coughing, sneezing or blowing their noses in 2020.

In both 2019 and 2020, 'higher percentages of older adults, women, Black persons, and Hispanic persons reported remembering to wash their hands in multiple situations than did young adults, men, and White adults,' the report said.

Older adults, Black people and Hispanic people are disproportionately affected by Covid-19, the authors said, so it's particularly important to engage with them about preventive behaviors.

The study does have some limitations, including the fact that the design does not specify whether changes in handwashing were due to the pandemic and that the survey relied on self-reported data.

'Men, young adults and White adults continue to be less likely to remember to wash their hands, despite improvements made from 2019 to 2020,' said the authors, suggesting that there is additional work needed to identify strategies to remind and motivate these groups to wash their hands.

Another new study found that women appear to be washing their hands, wearing masks and social distancing regularly to a greater degree than men.

Women aren't just better at taking preventative measures, researchers at New York University and Yale University said. Women were also more likely to express alarm and anxiety in response to Covid-19 and listen to experts, the study, which was published this week in the journal Behavioral Science & Policy, said.

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