With the onset of the pandemic, the sale of alcohol wipes and hand sanitizers went through the roof. New data reveals that's not the only thing that increased during lockdown, so did Gen Z’s obsession with cleanliness.
According to a recent poll by College Rover of over a thousand college-age students, 45% had a high sensitivity to germs and may be otherwise known as "germaphobes."
Furthermore, 32% of respondents said they wash their hands between 11 and 20 times a day, despite 47% reporting that they do so five to ten times daily. That is about once per hour in many cases, which may be the consequence of cleaning practices from the pandemic era that have now become deeply established.
Another finding was that 31% of Gen Z students change their bed sheets at least once weekly.
They anticipate that others will do the same: Roughly 30% of all college students have complained to their resident advisor (RA) about unclean living conditions with a roommate.
College-age students may also be particularly concerned about cleanliness because their dorm rooms, cafeterias, restrooms, and computer laboratories are frequently filthy.
The survey says there are 60,000 times more germs on eating tables in normal college cafeterias than on a regular family toilet seat. With an average of less than 11.4 million colony-forming units (CFU), the kitchen sink is one of the dirtiest areas in most homes.
However, that is nothing compared to college library desks containing 2.6 times more bacteria. The situation deteriorated further when the team discovered 12 times as many germs on an ordinary computer lab mouse and keyboard as on a toothbrush holder.
Why are Gen Z preoccupied with cleaning and staying germ-free?
To learn more about Gen Z and the survey, James Campigotto, part of the creative team for College Rover, shared his thoughts on the results exclusively with Healthnews.
"Almost half (45%) of the college students surveyed said they were hyperconscious about germs. This can be attributed to a combination of heightened awareness and the evolving social landscape," says Campigotto.
Gen Z has grown up in an era of increased access to information, especially regarding health and hygiene. The ease of disseminating information through social media and online platforms has likely made members of Gen Z acutely conscious of the potential risks associated with germs. Additionally, emphasizing personal well-being and a healthy lifestyle might contribute to a desire for cleaner environments. The study’s findings, such as the high frequency of handwashing and concerns about shared spaces, align with the generation’s commitment to health-conscious behaviors.-Campigotto
Campigotto also thinks that the pandemic has been attributed to the reasoning behind Gen Z and their compulsion with cleanliness.
"Undoubtedly, the pandemic has played a pivotal role in shaping the seemingly germophobic tendencies observed among Gen Z college students. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified public awareness of infectious diseases and highlighted the importance of good hygiene practices," he says.
Constant reminders to wash hands, sanitize, and maintain cleanliness to curb the spread of the virus have likely increased awareness for the generation. The pandemic has, in a way, accelerated and solidified existing cleanliness trends, making Gen Z more attuned to the potential health risks associated with pathogens.
Increased awareness can contribute to a healthier overall environment, especially in shared spaces like college campuses. It may lead to reduced transmission of common illnesses and contribute to collective efforts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in a pandemic.
However, there is a potential downside if this translates into excessive anxiety or avoidance behaviors, impacting mental health or hindering social interactions. Striking a balance between maintaining a healthy environment and avoiding unnecessary fear or isolation is crucial for the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.
- College Rover. Campus Crawlers: Bacteria Score Perfect Attendance in Microbial Academy.
- REVIVE – Advancing Antimicrobial R&D. Colony-forming unit (CFU).
- Psych Central. How Do You Know If You’re a Germaphobe?