Navigation Links
Gender and hygiene: Could cleanliness be hurting girls?
Date:1/26/2011

CORVALLIS, Ore. Little girls growing up in western society are expected to be neat and tidy "all ribbon and curls" and one researcher who studies science and gender differences thinks that emphasis may contribute to higher rates of certain diseases in adult women.

The link between increased hygiene and sanitation and higher rates of asthma, allergies and autoimmune disorders is known as the "hygiene hypothesis" and the link is well-documented. Yet the role of gender is rarely explored as part of this phenomenon.

Oregon State University philosopher Sharyn Clough thinks researchers need to dig deeper. In her new study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, she points out that women have higher rates of allergies and asthma, and many autoimmune disorders. However, there is no agreed-upon explanation for these patterns. Clough offers a new explanation.

Clough documents a variety of sociological and anthropological research showing that our society socializes young girls differently from young boys. In particular, she notes, girls are generally kept from getting dirty compared to boys.

"Girls tend to be dressed more in clothing that is not supposed to get dirty, girls tend to play indoors more than boys, and girl's playtime is more often supervised by parents," said Clough, adding that this is likely to result in girls staying cleaner. "There is a significant difference in the types and amounts of germs that girls and boys are exposed to, and this might explain some of the health differences we find between women and men."

However, that doesn't mean that parents should let their daughters go out into the back yard and eat dirt, Clough points out.

"What I am proposing is new ways of looking at old studies," she said. "The hygiene hypothesis is well-supported, but what I am hoping is that the epidemiologists and clinicians go back and examine their data through the lens of gender."

The "hygiene hypothesis" links the recent rise in incidence of asthma, allergies, and autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis, with particular geographical and environmental locations, in particular urban, industrialized nations. Many scholarly studies have noted that as countries become more industrial and urban, rates of these diseases rise. For instance, the rate of Crohn's disease is on the rise in India as sanitation improves and industrialization increases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that asthma prevalence is higher among females (8.9 percent compared to 6.5 percent in males) and that women are more likely to die from asthma. The National Institutes of Health statistics show that autoimmune diseases strike women three times more than men.

A report by the Task Force on Gender, Multiple Sclerosis, and Autoimmunity shows that among people with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, the female to male ratio is between 2:1 and 3:1. With the disease lupus, nine times as many women are affected as men.

Clough is a philosopher of science and epistemology, with a particular focus on feminist theory and gender differences. The focus of her work is to study scientific research and look for the implicit or hidden assumptions that guide that research.

She believes the link between hygiene, gender and disease is not just a fluke.

"We are just now beginning to learn about the complex relationship between bacteria and health," she said. "More than 90 percent of the cells in our body are microbial rather than human. It would seem that we have co-evolved with bacteria. We need to explore this relationship more, and not just in terms of eating 'pro-biotic' yogurt."

That's why Clough does not recommend that parents feed their daughters spoonfuls of dirt. Just one gram of ordinary uncontaminated soil contains 10 billion microbial cells, so the effects of ingesting dirt are unknown.

"We obviously do not yet know enough to differentiate between helpful and harmful bacteria," she said.

However, Clough said she can easily join in the chorus of voices of health experts who say that more outdoor time for kids is good even if that means the kids get a little dirty.

"Getting everyone, both boys and girls, from an early age to be outdoors as much as possible is something I can get behind," she said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Sharyn Clough
sharyn.clough@oregonstate.edu
541-737-9801
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. UIC Center for Research on Women and Gender receives Presidential Award
2. Sense of Touch May Influence Gender Perception
3. Race, Gender Play Part in Hypertension Risk
4. Being faced with gender stereotypes makes women less likely to take financial risks
5. Wake up, Mom -- study shows gender differences in sleep interruptions
6. Gender-bending fish on the rise in southern Alberta
7. Bridging the gender gap
8. Hurricane Katrinas effects on children: Resilience and gender
9. Gender gap persists at highest levels of math and science testing
10. Chemicals remaining after wastewater treatment change the gender of fish
11. Playtime with Parents May Shape Gender Roles
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... 27, 2016 , ... "FCPX editors can now reveal their media with growing ... said Christina Austin - CEO of Pixel Film Studios. , ProSlice Color brings ... users can now reveal the media of their split screens with growing colorful panels. ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... TopConsumerReviews.com recently awarded their ... Eyeglasses . , Millions of individuals in the United States and Canada wear eyeglasses. ... way to both correct vision and make a fashion statement. Even celebrities use glasses ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... 26, 2016 , ... PawPaws brand pet supplements owned by Whole ... enhance the health of felines. The formula is all-natural and is made from Chinese ... PawPaws Cat Kidney Support Supplement Soft Chews are Astragalus Root Extract and ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... , ... Austin residents seeking Mohs surgery services, can now turn to Dr. ... Russell Peckham for medical and surgical dermatology. , Dr. Dorsey brings specialization to include ... in Mohs Micrographic Surgery completed by Dr. Dorsey was under the direction of Glenn ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... As a ... Magna Cum Laude and his M.D from the David Geffen School of Medicine at ... returned to Los Angeles to complete his fellowship in hematology/oncology at the UCLA-Olive View-Cedars ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... -- Revolutionary technology includes multi-speaker listening to ... leaders in advanced audiology and hearing aid technology, has ... the world,s first internet connected hearing aid that opens ...      (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160622/382240 ) , ... firsts,: , TwinLink™ - the first dual ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... MEDIA, Pa. , June 23, 2016 ... treatments in an outpatient dialysis facility.  Treatments are usually ... to 6 hours per visit, including travel time, equipment ... on a patient, but especially grueling for patients who ... residents of a skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers for ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016  Experian Health, the healthcare industry ... patient payment and care experience, today announced ... and services that will enhance the breadth ... These award-winning solutions will enable healthcare professionals ... in an ever-changing environment and redefine front-office ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: