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Determinants of Personal and Household Hygiene Among College Students in New York City, 2011

Background Although several studies have characterised the hygiene habits of college students, few have assessed the determinants underlying such behaviours.

Objectives Our study sought to describe students’ knowledge, practices, and beliefs about hygiene and determine whether there is an association between reported behaviours and frequency of illness.

Methods A sample of 299 undergraduate students completed a questionnaire assessing demographics, personal and household hygiene behaviours, beliefs and knowledge about hygiene, and general health status.

Results: Variation in reported hygiene habits was noted across several demographic factors. Women reported “always” washing their hands after using the toilet (87.1%) more than men (65.3%, P ¼ .001). Similarly, freshmen reported such behaviour (80.4%) more than sophomores (71.9%), juniors (67.7%), or seniors (50%, P ¼ .011). Whereas 96.6% of participants thought that hand washing was either “very important” or “somewhat important” for preventing disease, smaller proportions thought it could prevent upper respiratory infections (85.1%) or gastroenteritis (48.3%), specifically. There was no significant relationship between reported behaviours and self-reported health status.

Conclusion The hygiene habits of college students may be motivated by perceptions of socially acceptable behaviour rather than scientific knowledge. Interventions targeting the social norms of incoming and continuing students may be effective in improving hygiene determinants and ultimately hygiene practices.

Author: Miko BA, Cohen B, Conway L, Gilman A, Seward SL Jr, Larson E

Citation: Am J Infect Control. 2012 Dec;40(10):940-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2011.12.015. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

Published: 30/03/2012

Publication Type: Journal article

Publisher: American Journal of Infection Control