Are younger consumers washing their hands of good hygiene?

May 6, 2014
2 min read

Hand washing – it’s the number one rule of good hygiene, yet new research from Mintel shows that younger consumers generally have lower standards of hygiene than their older counterparts. Indeed, in the UK today, 90% of those aged 65 and over wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet, but this figure declines to less than half (47%) of the nation’s 16 to 24 year olds. And it seems some bad habits concerning hand washing are being established by those with young children, in contrast to people in older age groups who pay more attention to such matters.

Ironically, while hand washing is lower on the agenda for the nation’s young – it is younger consumers who worry more about getting ill from viruses or getting food poisoning from harmful bacteria – some 41% of 16-24 year olds worry about coming in to contact with viruses compared to 31% of those aged 65 and over. Clearly there is a need for more public health campaigns from brands to establish better hygiene habits, including among those in their teens who are likely to still be living with their parents.

Brands have an opportunity to promote wider use of hygiene products through focusing on the importance of hand washing and the spread of germs on surfaces around the home. This could include the use of a brush that shows up germ hotspots on surfaces or new technology to show consumers the germs on their hands and how they can be removed with washing.

Some four in ten (39%) Brits use hand sanitisers, but there is still more potential to target those on the move with germ-killing products for hand hygiene. Teenagers are more likely to be spending a large amount of time away from the home, so should also be made more aware of on-the-go hand hygiene. Companies targeting teenagers could promote the usage of hand sanitisers or antibacterial hand wipes, including products in packaging that is more likely to appeal to this age group. Germ-killing brands could also increase their social media presence to engage more strongly with teenagers, including through mobile or Facebook games. There is opportunity to provide hand sanitiser points in public places such as railway stations, along the lines of those seen in hospitals, target commuters with free samples, or installing vending machines with gels or wipes in toilets.

For more information on Mintel’s new Attitudes to Germs UK 2014 report, click here.

Richard Caines
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