Hand Washing Practices in a College Town Environment

J Environ Health. 2013 Apr;75(8):18-24.


Many people do not wash their hands when the behavior in which they engage would warrant it. Most research of hand washing practices to date has taken place in high-traffic environments such as airports and public attraction venues. These studies have established a persistent shortcoming and a gender difference in hand washing compliance. Using field observations of 3,749 people in a college town environment, the research described in this article replicates and extends earlier work while identifying potential environmental and demographic predictors of hand washing compliance. Additionally, the authors' research suggests that proper hand washing practices, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are not being practiced. Finally, the authors' research raises a question as to the accuracy of earlier measurements of "proper" hand washing practices, suggesting that compliance rates are inflated. The results can help increase hand washing rates for the general public and thus decrease the risk of transmitting disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hand Hygiene / methods
  • Hand Hygiene / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Toilet Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult