The Gross Factor: The Only Way Denver Students Will Wash Their Hands
Poo on you, wash your hands.
You just peed, wash your hands.
If you lived in a University of Denver undergraduate dorm, signs touting this rhyme might grace your hallways. In an attempt to encourage students to wash their hands more frequently, specifically after going to the bathroom, researchers at UD tried various types of messaging to get the idea across: gross, germ, and you-will-get-sick.
Turns out UD students don’t seem to care too much about germs, and don’t really believe in the correlation between disease and hand-washing (or rather, the lack thereof)—at least, not enough to soap up after sitting on the toilet. But, when Associate Professor Renée Botta, who led the study, posted signs with “gross messaging,” such as the ones at the top of this post, females increased their hand washing by 26 percent and males by 8 percent (males must not be as grossed out by the idea of having urine on their hands, but that is subject matter for an entirely different study).
“Fear of spreading germs or getting sick by not washing didn’t mean much to students,” says Botta, an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communications and Journalism Studies. “What got their attention was the knowledge that they might be walking around with “gross things” on their hands if they didn’t wash.”
Researchers concurrently observed students in two sign-less neighboring dorms. Over the same four-week period, females decreased hand washing by 2 percentage points and males by a whopping 21.5 percentage points. This also begs the question of why hand washing actually decreased, instead of simply remaining consistent.
Other schools are catching on, too! UC Santa Barbara, Wyoming, Colorado State and CU–Colorado Springs, among other universities, want to launch their own “gross” hand washing campaigns. Seriously, folks? Yes, these students are living in some of the most pristine environments in the country, but when it comes to personal hygiene that is irrelevant. They still need to scrub-a-dub-dub. UD undergrads, you are adults now, and smart college students, so please wash your hands without being told to do so.