International Hygiene Study Reveals How Personality, Manners and Profession Affect Health

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October marks the start of this year's cold and flu season. It is important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 15 million to 60 million Americans, or 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population will contract the flu this year. Also according to the CDC, nearly 22 million schools days are lost each year to the common cold alone.

Realizing the role of good hygiene in helping to prevent the spread of germs, the Global Hygiene Council has issued data from the international LYSOL® HABIT Study (Hygiene: Attitudes, Behavior, Insight and Traits) that shows certain personality traits, good manners and occupational status appear to have a beneficial effect on personal and household hygiene practices, as well as overall wellness.

According to the study, 54 percent of people surveyed globally reported good personal hygiene. Researchers uncovered several novel findings that influenced hygiene scores, including the following:

- Conscientious or nervous personality types reported experiencing 10 percent fewer colds than others.

- Those with good manners, such as covering their mouths when sneezing, were almost two-and-a-half times more likely to have good health.

- Hygiene habits varied by profession, with homemakers reporting the highest level of personal hygiene (64.5 percent) and students reporting the worst (44.5 percent).

"Results of this study should empower Americans to improve or maintain their personal and household hygiene in order to help break the chain of transmission," says professor John Oxford, chairman of the Hygiene Council and professor of virology at St. Barts and the London School of Dentistry. "The CDC urges all of us to practice certain health habits to help prevent the flu, including frequent handwashing and cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces when someone in your household is sick."

"Adopting good hygiene habits is a responsibility we all share. It is important for families to integrate regular hygiene practices at home, school and work throughout the year to keep germs from spreading, especially during cold and flu season," says Dr. Laura A Jana, a board-certified pediatrician.

The LYSOL® HABIT study broke down hygiene practices by country in an effort to highlight where certain behaviors are more prevalent. While the U.S. reported high levels of frequent hand-washing (a personal hygiene habit), its rank for household hygiene fell into the bottom half against other countries. Household hygiene scores were based on such factors as frequency of surface cleaning, tidiness and having an established house cleaning routine.

Data was primarily collected through responses to web-based questionnaires. To ensure a study sample truly representative of the population, telephone calls and face-to-face interviews were conducted in some markets (South Africa, Middle East, Malaysia, Brazil, China, and India) to ensure the lower socioeconomic demographic was adequately captured. Standard multivariate statistical analyses were performed on the resulting datasets to determine how personality variation, hygiene practices, socio-economic factors and infectious disease outcomes inter-relate.

It was a strictly questionnaire-based study, with 1,000 participants in each of 12 countries (12,000 total participants) responding to 130 questions on hand-washing, surface cleaning and food preparation, handling and storage techniques, as well as their own history of health problems and demographics. The countries involved were the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Australia, Brazil, China and India.

The research study, which constitutes the largest hygiene survey ever to characterize the key determinants of personal and household hygiene behaviors that affect health cross-culturally; to pinpoint the key factors in different personalities and settings that determine hygiene behavior, and highlight those that can be modified to improve health. The study was conducted from January to March 2011 by the Hygiene Council.

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