Most importantly for companies marketing hand soaps and related products, the study underlines the fact that taking different approaches may be more effective when marketing such products to male and female consumer groups.
The study, which was conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, analysed the bathroom habits of nearly 200,000 individuals, assessing which individuals actually did wash their hands with soap with the use of sensors attached to the dispensers.
Wireless measuring devices and text warning system
The researchers installed wireless measuring devices in motorway service stations to record their results, while simultaneously using a text-based warning system to remind individuals to wash their hands.
The results, which were published in the October edition of the peer-reviewed American Journal of Public Health, showed that approximately two thirds of men did not use soap when they washed their hands after using the lavatory.
Conversely, women appear to have a much better sense of personal hygiene when it comes to handwashing, with the research results showing that approximately two thirds washed with soap after using the lavatory.
Men and women respond differently to hand wash warnings
As well as the marked difference between the hand washing habits of the two sexes, the research also highlighted the fact that men and women responded better to different tactics when it comes to effective reminders.
The text-based warning messages were flashed up on screens placed at the entrances of the bathrooms, reminding people with different types of messages to wash their hands.
Underlining the fact that male-dedicated and separate female-dedicated campaigns may be more effective, the researchers found that men showed a marked increase in hand soap use when ‘disgust’ tactics were used in the text messages, while women responded better to straight forward reminders.
Women fine with a reminder, men respond to disgust tactics
The survey showed that there was a 9.4 per cent increase in soap use when women were given a straight forward reminder about washing with soap, compared to the control conditions, which meant no message .
Likewise, men responded best to messages such as ‘soap it off now or eat it later’, with a 9.8 per cent increase in soap use compared to the control conditions.
Overall the researchers said that the most effective text message was ‘Is the person next to you washing with soap?’, which elicited a 12 per cent increase in the use of soap overall.
The lead researcher on the project, Gaby Judah, said she believes the most effective campaigns to encourage people to use hand soap more are those that target men and women with different approaches.