United States of bad hygiene and habits

Jake GammonHead of Omnibus, US
July 14, 2014, 5:39 PM GMT+0

Do you always wash your hands after going to the bathroom? Really? And ever had those days where you feel the shower can be skipped? Well it turns out you’re not alone – millions of Americans skip showers every day and in the rising heat, some of us are starting to notice.

This article looks at the habits of every-day Americans, from basic cleanliness and the places people choose to relieve themselves through to spitting in the street, you’ll may be surprised at how many people do so many uncivilized things.

Washing hands after using the bathroom

Experts state that washing your hands after going to the bathroom and washing food before preparation is a top way to cut out germs, bacteria and viruses that can easily spread and cause nasty illnesses such as gastroenteritis.
But how many of us just can’t be bothered all the time?

Asked how often they wash their hands after using their own bathroom at home, two in five (38%) people admit to not washing their hands all of the time. 3% even admit to never washing their hands.

The worst offenders here are men and younger people. 4% of men admit to never washing their hands at home compared with just 1% of women. Almost half (46%) of millennials do not wash their hands all the time compared with 29% of those aged 55 or over. And while this may shock – one in four (24%) Americans don’t wash their hands all the time after using a public toilet. This rises to 29% of men (compared with 19% of women) and one in three (33%) people aged between 18 and 34.


And while we’re on the subject of bathrooms, it seems many Americans look to places other than the toilet to relieve themselves.

Two in three (62%) of Americans have urinated in a shower. Of those, one in five (21%) do it every, or most of the times they shower.

While 18 to 34 year olds are not much more likely to pee in the shower (63% compared with 61% of those aged 55 or over), those that do seem to make a habit of it - 33% doing so all or most of the times they shower compared with 10% of the older generations.

It seems that money can’t buy manners as likelihood to have peed in a shower increases with household income – from 60% of those earning less than $40,000 a year to 69% of those earning more than $80,000.

While men and women are quite evenly split as to ever having let go in the shower, men are far more likely to have chosen other adventurous places for relief. Almost three in four (71%) men have gone in a bush or tree in a non-residential area compared with 36% of women; 41% in the sea (37% of women); 50% in their own yard (12% women) and 32% in the street (6% of women).

One in five people (20%) have chosen to go in a bath.

In which of the following places, if any, have you ever urinated?

Base: All US adults n=1,169

Bathing / showering

Still looking at bathroom habits, we were curious to find out how often the average American showered or bathed.

In all, two in three (66%) of people shower once a day or more, leaving one in three who wash this way less often.

Those most likely to shower once a day or more include those on higher incomes (77% of those earning more than $80,000 a year), divorced people (74%) and those in the South (71%).

Women are more likely to shower or bathe less than once a day (38% compared with 29% of men), they are more likely to shower every other day (23% of women doing this compared with 14% of men). Men are most likely to say they never shower or bathe – 3% saying so (compared with 0% of women).

Other people likely to say they never shower or bathe include those in the West (4%) and those aged 18 to 34 (3%).

On the other end of the scale, those aged 18 to 34 are also the most likely to shower or bathe twice a day or more (15% compared with 4% of those aged 55+). Democrats are the most likely of voters to shower more than once a day (10%), followed by those who vote for Independents (8%). Just 4% of Republicans do this more than once a day.

On average, how often do you shower or bathe, if at all?

Base: All US adults n=1,169

Bad Habits

Thinking outside of the bathroom and looking at bad habits more generally, there are big divisions between men and women in habits which could be considered as negative.

Men are more likely to admit to having picked their nose in the last year (46% compared with 37% of women); to have passed gas around others (41% compared with 30% of women); to have spit in the street (35% compared with 11%); and to have slurped when eating soup (22% compared with 15%).

Women are no angels themselves though. Half (53%) admit to having laughed loudly in the last year (45% of men); 54% chew gum (40%); 43% mutter to themselves (36%); and 42% talk to someone while watching a film (28% of men).

Which, if any, of the following things do you do at least once a year? (By gender)

Base: All US adults n=1,169

Younger people are more likely to admit to almost every potentially bad habit compared with those aged 55 or over.

There is a big regional division too - people in the Midwest are more likely than any other part of America to have any of these habits, with nearly half having picked their nose in the past year (47%); pass gas in company (46%); mutter to themselves (46%); burp so others can hear (30%); and slurp when eating soup (22%).

For further information about poll results, and for details about methodology and omnibus services, please email omnibus.us@yougov.com.

Find the full results here.

Image courtesy of Getty