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Men Can Increase Hand Washing when Primed with Messages

Update Date: Jan 13, 2013 05:27 AM EST

While a CDC report suggests that 77 percent of men wash their hands when leaving the restroom, new research has found that this figure increased to 86 percent among men who were primed with messages in bathrooms.

Maria Lapinski, Michigan State University; Erin Maloney, University of Pennsylvania; Mary Braz, Westchester University; and Hillary Shulman, North Central College published their findings in Human Communication Research from a field study of college-aged men, according to Medical Xpress.

In a study conducted at Michigan State University, males who were surveyed gave self-reported data stating that they washed their hands 75 percent of the time after using the bathroom.

Researchers thus conducted an experimented wherein they posted signs in bathrooms that read "4 out of 5 Males Wash Their Hands". There was also a guide to effective hand-washing along with the post.

In the meantime, researchers also recorded the hand-washing behavior of males in bathrooms to check how well they followed the guide. When the men were coming out of the bathroom, experimenters approached them and asked them to fill out a questionnaire.

The findings of the experiment suggested that men who were exposed to a relatable message in the bathroom washed their hands better than those who were not exposed to the messages. The findings of the study can have very significant implications on public health, especially during the cold and flu season.

"It is important from a public health standpoint, because quality hand washing can prevent transmission of many diseases and we have good evidence that people typically don't do it as often or as well as they should," Lapinski said.

"This investigation not only advances communication theory in meaningful ways," said John Courtright, editor of Human Communication Research and professor at the University of Delaware. "But it also increases our knowledge about the important role of communication in health campaigns."

The study was published in the journal Human Communication Research.

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