Think about this the next time you shake someone’s hand

Photo: Malcolm Turnbull/ Facebook.

The handshake is a greeting used by people all over the world, particularly in a professional capacity.

But have you ever thought about the hygiene issues associated with touching someone else’s hand?

In line with Global Handwashing Day, October 15, last week we spoke to psychologist and hygiene expert Emma Kenny about the germs that are transferred from one person to another when you shake someone’s hand, and why we feel the way we do about germs.

According to Kenny, who is also a spokesperson for Initial Hygiene, 80% of infections are spread by hand, and 44 different types of bacteria reside on the forearm alone.

While we wash our hands because we know that can prevent us from falling ill, there is more powerful psychological reason why we do it.

“Refusal to use a public washroom is an aversion response within us, done because we have no control over other people who have access to the same washroom, and are unwilling to take unnecessary risks where we are more likely to pick up bugs and germs from others,” she says.

“Interestingly, an awareness of our own bad habits adds to this caution. We presume that if we have the capacity to act in an unhygienic way then, potentially, everyone around us behaves in the same, or even worse, manner.

“This is why, when we are in the workplace, we tend to become more vigilant with regards to our hygiene behaviour – seeking to protect ourselves out of a subconscious mistrust of others.

“Our heightened awareness of germs in the workplaces means that not only are we more conscious of hand washing but, also, of all the surfaces we may touch.”

She also said that despite the fact that both genders improved their hygiene behaviours in the workplace, women have the best hygiene habits, with more systematic behaviours around washing their hands using soap and flushing the toilet.

So, whose hand will you be shaking next?