Background: Frequent handwashing can prevent infections, but non-compliance to hand hygiene is pervasive. Few theory- and evidence-based interventions to improve regular handwashing are available. Therefore, two intervention modules, a motivational and a self-regulatory one, were designed and evaluated.
Methods: In a longitudinal study, 205 young adults, aged 18 to 26 years, were randomized into two intervention groups. The Mot-SelfR group received first a motivational intervention (Mot; risk perception and outcome expectancies) followed by a self-regulatory intervention (SelfR; perceived self-efficacy and planning) 17 days later. The SelfR-Mot group received the same two intervention modules in the opposite order. Follow-up data were assessed 17 and 34 days after the baseline.
Results: Both intervention sequences led to an increase in handwashing frequency, intention, self-efficacy, and planning. Also, overall gains were found for the self-regulatory module (increased planning and self-efficacy levels) and the motivational module (intention). Within groups, the self-regulatory module appeared to be more effective than the motivational module, independent of sequence.
Conclusions: Self-regulatory interventions can help individuals to exhibit more handwashing. Sequencing may be important as a motivation module (Mot) first helps to set the goal and a self-regulatory module (SelfR) then helps to translate this goal into actual behavior, but further research is needed to evaluate mechanisms.