Objective: This study was performed to evaluate gender and age differences in hygienic behavior among the general population, focusing on hand-washing habits and the microbial load of hands. Methods: A self-administered questionnaire survey and a separate microbial examination were performed. The Pearson's correlation between hand-washing habits and microbial load was analyzed. Results: In the questionnaire survey on hand-washing habits, gender differences were found in hand-washing frequency, use of hand-washing agents, and hand drying methods (p<0.05). Age differences were found in numbers of washing parts of the hands and also in hand drying methods (p<0.05). Females showed better habits washing hands than did males, as did older people compared to younger. In the microbial examination of indicator bacteria on their hands, younger people tended to show a higher load of total aerobic bacteria than did the older, and females showed a higher load of total coliforms than did males (p<0.05). There were significant relationships between the load of total aerobic bacteria and hand-washing frequency, duration, and method of turning-off water (p<0.05). Conclusions: Although females were expected to show a better practice of hand-washing than were males based on the survey results, they showed a higher level of total coliforms in the hand examination. The older age group showed better hand-washing habits than did the younger age group and had less total aerobic bacteria on their hands. These inter-gender and age differences highlight the need for development and implementation of gender-and age-specific educational programs or campaigns.
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