Featured News Study finds most teens don’t wash their hands

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Wed, 26 May 2021

Study finds most teens don’t wash their hands

Patrick Buck

A new study from James Cook University has found that only one in three adolescents around the world is practicing appropriate hand hygiene – and researchers have linked the problem to a few particular teenage lifestyles and experiences.

JCU’s Associate Professor Santosh Jatrana is a Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Murtupuni Centre for Rural and Remote Health. She led a study that looked at the global estimates of hand hygiene practices among more than 350,000 people aged 13-17 years from 92 countries.

“Despite the evidence that hand washing with soap and water at key times is one of the most cost-effective measures to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, this simple hand hygiene behaviour is still not widely practiced among adolescents. Only 30 per cent of adolescents, a small proportion, are practising appropriate hand hygiene,” Said Dr Jatrana.

“Hand hygiene is listed by the World Health Organisation as one of three most important behaviours that are likely to benefit health and it’s gained even more importance after the emergence of COVID-19,” said Dr Yaqoot Fatima, the study’s co-author.

Associate Professor Jatrana said it is particularly important to explore these practices in young people, as they are the ‘silent carriers’ who unknowingly play a major role in community transmission of infections.

“We found that sedentary behaviour and bullying victimisation were linked to inappropriate hand hygiene. In contrast, parental supervision and parental bonding were linked to good hand hygiene. It was noteworthy that there is no significant gender difference in hand washing behaviour,” said Dr Fatima.

“These findings highlight the need to further improve the effectiveness of current hand hygiene promoting programs with consideration for both schools (bullying, exercise) and family level (parental supervision and parental bonding) influencers on hand washing behaviours,” said Dr Fatima.

Associate Professor Jatrana said the results imply that public health policies need to be targeted at not only providing health education but at increasing parent–child bonding and shared time in order to promote children’s health more effectively.


Associate Professor Santosh Jatrana (Mt Isa)
E: santosh.jatrana@jcu.edu.au

Dr Yaqoot Fatima (Mt Isa)                            
E: Yaqoot.fatima@jcu.edu.au