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© Borgis - New Medicine 4/2016, s. 141-147 | DOI: 10.5604/14270994.1228169
Csenge Földvári-Nagy1, 2, Kincső Csepke Földvári-Nagy3, *Dezső Módos4, Katalin Lenti4
Comparative study of hygiene habits in three different groups in Hungary
1Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Principal: Stuart Nicholson
2Illyès Gyula High School, Budaörs, Hungary
Head of School: Pèter Árendás
3Trefort Ágoston High School, Budapest, Hungary
Head of School: Zoltán Csapodi
4Department of Morphology and Physiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
Head of Department: Professor Gabriella Dörnyei, PhD
Introduction. Gastrointestinal and urogenital infections cause great costs to health system and are responsible for many deaths all over the world. Personal hygiene is the simplest, most cost-effective method of prevention against these infections.
Aim. The aim of our study was to investigate personal hygiene habits of a selected Hungarian subpopulations and explore the subject of hygienic education.
Material and methods. 324 participants from three Hungarian subpopulations (high school students, employed university graduates, and health care students and professionals) filled in our self-designed, on-line, self-administered and anonymous questionnaire.
Results. The participants typically washed their hair 1 to 3 times a week, bathed once a day and brushed their teeth 1 to 2 times a day with no significant differences between groups. More than two third of the participants always washed their hands before a meal, but 21% of the respondents did not use soap for washing or did not wash their hands at all. Alarmingly, more than half of health care professionals and students and four fifth of high school students do not wash their hands before using a toilet.
Conclusions. Hand washing habits of the studied population, especially those of high school students, result in a high risk of urogenital, gastrointestinal and, in case of health care employees, nosocomial infections. The importance of health care education of young and adult people is not to be underestimated.

Hygiene is one of the greatest inventions of the human civilization. The importance of hygiene is underlined in all cultures, even if its scope is different throughout the world (1).
The relevance of hand washing and hygiene has a long history. Ignác Semmelweis saved lives of many women giving birth in his obstetrics department by ordering the doctors to wash their hands in chlorinated water (2). Since then, many research projects as well as organizations have been focusing on hygiene. WHO and UNICEF constantly promote and emphasize the importance of handwashing (1, 3). According to UNICEF, gastrointestinal infections are responsible for 1.5 million deaths of children every year (3). According to studies conducted in developing countries, washing hands with soap can reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal infections by 30-60% (4, 5). Fortunately, the incidence of gastrointestinal infections in Hungary is much lower than in developing countries, nonetheless, the importance of handwashing cannot be underestimated. A study on Spanish elementary school pupils showed that number of days of absence due to acute gastrointestinal illnesses can be reduced by 36% with antiseptic hand washing (6).
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are estimated to affect 150 million every year worldwide (7). In 2007, 10.5 million medical visits in United States alone were due to UTIs (8). The global costs of diagnosis and treatment of UTIs are considerable – in the United States alone, it was estimated to be 6 billion dollars in the year 1993 (9). Washing hands before using the toilet can help eliminated urogenital pathogens and thus, decrease the risk of urogenital infections.
Great amounts of gastrointestinal and urogenital pathogens, and even STD pathogens, can be detected on everyday objects, such as mobile phones, bills and coins, or door handles (10-13). This makes hygiene habits, especially hand washing, extremely relevant in prevention of these diseases.
The diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases causes great costs to the society. In 2007, direct medical costs of nosocomial infections was 28-45 billion dollars in the United States alone (14). In addition to direct health costs, other costs (e.g. sick leave) are also significant. Thus, the development of proper hygiene habits is not only the question of health policy, but also of the economic interest of the society.
In 2011, there were 52 850 reported cases of infectious gastroenteritis in Hungary, in 12 865 of which the pathogen was known (15, 16). 39 985 of the cases were diagnosed as unspecific gastroenteritis (15, 16). In 2012, the obligation to report the cases of unspecified infectious gastroenteritis was ceased in Hungary, and only gastroenteritis with known pathogen was reported. In 2015, 20 395 enteric infectious diseases with a known pathogen were reported based on microbial evidence and symptoms. The comparison of the data from 2012 and 2015 shows an increase in incidence of gastroenteritis caused by rotaviruses and Campylobacter, and a decrease in incidence of salmonellosis (15-17). There is no data available on the financial burden of the infectious gastroenteritis on the Hungarian economy and the health care system. Similarly, there is no available estimates on how adequate prevention could reduce these costs. Based on the international literature, it can be assumed that a significant amount of infections can be prevented with the education of proper hygiene rules.
Because of the lack of obligation to report urogenital infections, accurate data on urogenital infections are not available in Hungary.
Only a very limited number of research reports on hygiene habits of the Hungarian population can be found. These reports generally focus on smaller, non-representative populations. Ipsos Polling Institute surveyed the opinion of young people (aged between 15 and 25) on hygienc habits of their age group. According to their results, the majority of young people (80%) bathed daily, two-thirds of them (68%) brushed their teeth on a daily basis, and nearly one third of them (28%) brushed their teeth less often (18). In the representative survey conducted by Unilever Hungary Ltd. (19), the majority of elementary school pupils (1st-8th grade pupils; 90.5%) washed their hands after using the toilet. The majority of pupils (83.5%) washed their hands before a meal, but only 43.5% did it after the meal (19). Most of the primary school pupils washed their teeth in the evening (96%) and in the morning (88.5%), and approximately 24% of them brushed their teeth during the day (19). In a survey conducted in 2016 (20), more than a half (57%) of the participants (Hungarians aged 14-50) washed their teeth twice a day. Nearly one third brushed (28%) their teeth once a day and less than a tenth (8%) washed their teeth more than twice a day (20). A notable minority (3%) did not wash their teeth on a daily basis (20).
Our aim was to study whether personal hygiene habits of selected Hungarian subpopulations (secondary school students, employed university graduates and health care workers/students) are sufficient.
We designed an anonymous, on-line, self-administered questionnaire composed of closed questions. The questionnaire was constructed based on preliminary interviews and was validated by further interviews. There were seven questions altogether exploring the hygiene habits of the respondents: hand-washing and soap usage patterns related to eating and usage of the toilet, the frequency of hair washing, of showering/bathing and of teeth brushing.
The research was conducted on a highly educated social groups. We studied the hygienic habits on the following groups: students from top ranked high schools of Hungary (hereinafter referred to as Group 1; mean age = 17, SD = 1.74; n = 207); university graduated professionals (Group 2; mean age = 36, SD = 10.24; n = 57); health care students/employees (Group 3; mean age = 32, SD age = 9.19; n = 60).
A total of 324 questionnaires were processed. We ensured that item numbers were statistically comparable. We applied randomized sampling when it was necessary to ensure statistically comparable item numbers. The inclusion criteria were as follows: in Group 1: students of top ranked high schools; Group 2: employed university graduates; Group 3: medicine or health care students or employees of health care institutions. The study took place between November 2015 and April 2016. The non-respondent rate was less than 5%.
The questionnaires were distributed on-line. For Group 1, we directly contacted the teachers of top ranked high schools. They asked their students to complete the questionnaire. For Group 2, we distributed the questionnaire through on-line communities and selected the graduated respondents. For Group 3, we directly contacted the students of medical universities and employees of hospitals through on-line communities.
The statistical evaluation of responses was performed using IBM SPSS Statistic Base 20.0.0 software. Chi square tests were performed. We considered the results statistically significant when p < 0.05.
There were no significant differences between the three groups in respect of hand-washing and soap usage patterns related to eating, as well as the frequency of hair washing, showering/bathing and teeth brushing frequency (p > 0.05). Therefore, we present and analyse this data for the whole study population together.
However, significant differences in hygiene habits related to toilet use (hand washing and soap usage patterns) were found between Group 1 and two other groups. Therefore, this data is presented separately for all the subgroups.
Showering/bathing habits
The majority of the respondents washed their hair 1 to 3 times a week (54%), while a third (34%) washed their hair four times a week. 11% of the participants washed their hair every day (tab. 1). The vast majority of the studied population bathed or showered on a daily basis (91%) and a small proportion (6%) bathed approximately every other day (3-4 times per week). A minority (3%) bathed less frequently (1-2 times a week or less frequent) (tab. 1). Respondents typically washed their teeth 1 to 2 times a day (97%), but about 3% did not wash teeth daily. There was no respondent who declared to wash teeth more than two times a day (0%; tab. 1).
Tab. 1. Answers of the general studied population (n = 322) to the questions concerning the frequency of hair washing, bathing and brushing teeth. The most frequent answer is written in italics
How often do you wash your hair?
Every day4 times a week1-3 times a weekTotal
How often do you bathe?
Every day3-4 times a week1-2 times a week or lessTotal
How often do you wash your teeth?
1-2 times a day3-4 times a dayNot every dayTotal
Hand-washing habits and soap usage patterns related to having a meal

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otrzymano: 2016-09-02
zaakceptowano do druku: 2016-10-28

Adres do korespondencji:
*Dezső Módos
Centre for Molecular Informatics Department of Chemistry University of Cambridge
Lensfield Road
Cambridge, CB2 1EW
United Kingdom
tel.: +44 1223 336432
e-mail: dm729@cam.ac.uk

New Medicine 4/2016
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