Research from MasterCard has shown that despite believing handling cash, bank notes or coins to be unhygienic and dirty, only one in five wash their hands after holding it. The European wide study of over 9,000 consumers from 12 countries highlighted how despite being ranked as more unhygienic than hand rails on public transport or communal food, such as nuts in a bar, Europeans are struggling to break the bad habit of spending dirty cash.
Three quarters of all Europeans surveyed as part of the study, agreed they should be cautious when it comes to handling cash, due to the germs it may contain. However, findings showed that we are more likely to wash our hands after completing other tasks such as touching an animal (46%) or travelling on public transport (36%).
Initial research carried out by MasterCard and Oxford University in 2013 highlighted that the average European bank note contained 26,000 bacteria which could be potentially harmful to our health. Whilst respondents in the recent 2014 survey recognised the potential health hazards associated with handling cash, there was a significant “say-do” gap across Europe of people believing cash is dirty and actually doing something about it. Those in Hungary and France had the highest ‘Say-Do’ gap indicating the difference between their belief that cash is dirty and the likelihood of washing their hands after dealing with it.
Commenting on our reluctance to break the habit of spending cash, psychologist Donna Dawson highlighted; “Money” in the form of tangible banknotes and coins is the biggest form of visible economic power and of individual success that we have; it is therefore hard for people to make and keep any negative associations with money. The reason for the often large gap in the survey between what we say and what we do is a lack of “connection”: we may recognise that money collects germs, but we do not connect disease or illness to the handling of money.
40% of those polled recognised they had no control over who handled their money beforehand and as a consequence, many of us try not to think about the things we can’t control, with 38% claiming to never thinking about it. The facts about dirty money will worry us for a while, but this worry will quickly sink down the list of ‘worry priorities’ to a much lower point – it really is a case of out of sight, out of mind.”
Additional findings from the MasterCard research showed the majority stating they would prefer to use a card or contactless payment over cash in order to be more hygienic.
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