Today’s Digital – COVID-19: hidden reasons for which millions of people do not wash their hands

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“My resolution for 2019 is to say things on the air that I say out of the air… I don’t think I’ve washed hands for 10 years.”

These words he spoke in the past year the tv presenter of the american chain Fox News, Pete Hegseth, and caused quite a stir on the internet.

Surprisingly, Hegseth is not the only one.

In 2015, american actress Jennifer Lawrence said that they almost never wash their hands after going to the bathroom. (Both later said they were joking).

That same year, Thom Tillis, republican senator from North Carolina, suggested that requiring restaurant employees to wash their hands is a classic example of gold-plating.

The lack of adequate facilities and soap in the poorest places of the world may explain, in part, that the people do not wash hands.

In the least developed countries, only 27% of the population has access to these things. The World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate that about 3,000 million people do not have in house.

But even in many high-income countries only 50% of the people actually use soap after going to the bathroom, enough for us to consider making permanent the greetings of the ankle or elbow.

These statistics impact.

Washing the hands is considered to be one of the inventions that most lives saved in the history of mankind, since it contributes to the increase of average life expectancy of 80 years in countries such as the Uk, instead of 40 as it was in 1850, when it was popularized for the first time the washing of hands.

And if you need more incentive, this simple hygiene habit also offers the attractive possibility of avoiding the superbacterias and pandemics.

A 2006 review found that washing hands regularly you can reduce the risk of respiratory infections between 6% and 44%.

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From that emerged the pandemic covid-19, the scientists discovered that the culture of washing of hands of a country is a “very good” predictor of the degree of spread.

It is believed that the virus primarily infects people through airborne particles, but also can enter the body after a person touches contaminated objects and then your face.

It turns out that not washing hands when leaving the bathroom is not only due to laziness.

There are a number of psychological factors that discourage people to wash their hands.

And experts around the world expect to understand prejudices hidden to be able to lead us to be more hygienic.

“A problem with hand washing is that, especially in the developed countries, a person can skip washing your hands many times and not get sick,” says Aunger.

And, when they are sick, several days later, that moment of forgetting to wash hands will also have been lost in his memory.

“Even with the coronavirus, they say that the delay between infection and the appearance of any symptom is five or six days, so that the connection is ” very difficult” to do.

Careful with the optimism

The “bias of optimism” implies believing that bad things are less likely to happen to us than to other people.

This perspective irrationally positive is universal.

It is found in various human cultures and demographics, such as gender and age, and even in some animals, as birds and starlings and rats.

This self-deception may be in part responsible for habits such as smoking, or why many people choose credit cards that end up costing them money.

You can also prevent some people to wash their hands.

A study, conducted at a university in New York in the midst of the swine flu pandemic (H1N1) 2009, found that students who had higher levels of that optimism unrealistic were less likely to wash their hands.

Meanwhile, those who had greater confidence in their ability to control their own lives were to the contrary.

The bias of optimism was also found in nursing students, who tend to overestimate their knowledge of good practices of hand hygiene, and food handlers for their work, who consistently underestimate their risk of causing food poisoning in others.

Social norms matter

A great track about the importance of psychology in the washing of the hands lies in the extraordinary range of practices of hand hygiene in different cultures around the world.