Young, white US men are the least likely to wash their hands amid the coronavirus pandemic

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White college-aged men in the US are the least likely to wash their hands amid the coronavirus pandemic, a new report finds.

This group had the fewest number who reported regularly remembering to wash their hands before eating at a restaurant or after using the bathroom, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed last week.

Overall, compared to 2019, Americans were 2.3 times more likely to wash their hands  after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses and twice as likely before eating at a restaurant.

However, despite the uptick, one in four people still do not properly follow the public health guidance.

White males between ages 18 and 24 were the least likely to report washing their hands before eating, after using the bathroom or blowing noses, a new CDC report finds (file image)

White males between ages 18 and 24 were the least likely to report washing their hands before eating, after using the bathroom or blowing noses, a new CDC report finds (file image)

For the report, the CDC compared data from two Porter Novelli Public Services’ ConsumerStyles surveys, one in October 2019 and another in June 2020.

The surveys had 3,624 and 4,053 participants, respectively, and were said to be representative of the US population.

Respondents were asked if they remembered to wash their hands 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. 

In 2020, 71.2 percent said they remembered to wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their noses compared to 53.3 percent in 2019 – an increase of one-third.

The number who washed their hands before eating a restaurant increased by 27 percent and before eating at home increased by 18 percent.

Americans were also nearly 1.5 times more likely to report washing their hands after using the bathroom at home compared with 2019.

However, there were still about one in four who failed to wash their hands after having respiratory symptoms, before eating in a restaurant and before eating at home.

Researchers also found that pre-pandemic and during the pandemic, ‘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.’ 

Among those who reported washing their hands before eating at home, before eating at a restaurant and before preparing food at home, just 71 percent of white respondents and 70.8 percent of respondents aged 18-to-24 did so.  

By comparison, 75.9 percent of Hispanics and 80.6 percent of African-Americans, as well as around 80 percent of middle-aged adults, reported the same behavior.

This also held true when it came to washing hands after using the bathroom at home, after using the bathroom in public or after coughing, sneezing or blowing their noses.

Nearly 88 percent of men reported cleaning their hands in these situations in comparison with 91 percent of women.

About 89 percent of white respondents and those between ages 18 and 24 did the same compared to more than 91 percent of blacks and those in middle or old age.   

The CDC said new campaigns that target groups of people who are not following experts’ advice may be necessary.

‘Public health efforts should promote frequent handwashing for all, with attention to tailoring messaging to men, young adults, and non-Hispanic White adults,’ the authors wrote.  

‘Particular focus should be placed on encouraging handwashing at important times such as before eating and after experiencing respiratory symptoms. 



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