Men vs. Women: Guess Whose Offices Are Dirtier?

men office dirty womenMen have always had the rap of being messier and dirtier than women. And according to new research, such a difference between them may not be confined to the home but shows up at the office too.

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A team from San Diego State University led by biologist Scott Kelley, analyzed 30 offices in New York, San Francisco and Tucson, Ariz. In taking samples from five common workspace surfaces -- chairs, phones, desks, computer mice and keyboards -- the team found a total of 549 different germs.

On average, male workspaces produced 10 to 20 percent more germs than the women's, according to the study, which was partly funded by the Clorox corporation.

The researchers speculated that a more "slovenly" approach to personal hygiene by men could be causing this gender gap at work.

"Men are known to wash their hands and brush their teeth less frequently than women, and are commonly perceived to have a more slovenly nature," the researchers wrote in the journal PLoS ONE.

The researchers also floated another possible reason for why men might be the germier gender.

"Since men are, on average, larger than women, they have a correspondingly greater skin surface area, as well as nasal and oral cavities and, therefore, a proportionally greater surface area for bacterial colonization," the researchers pointed out.

Other interesting findings from the study:
  • Chairs and telephones are more often the hosts of bacteria than desktops, keyboards and computer mice.
  • San Francisco offices tend to be cleaner than those in New York or Tucson. But Kelley was quick to emphasize that more buildings in each city would need to be studied before any conclusions were made about the cities' comparative cleanliness.
  • Soil-based germs comprised much of the discovered bacteria that came from a non-human source.

In fact, Kelley said that his study was already breaking new ground. "Humans are spending an increasing amount of time indoors, yet we know little about the diversity of bacteria and viruses where we live, work and play," he said on the release of the study, according to WebMD.

As for the nature of the bacteria itself, the analysis showed that much of it was a product of basic bodily functions like coughing, sneezing and skin shedding.

But there was an unexpected amount of workplace germs from other sources.

"We also found a surprising number of bacterial genera associated with the human digestive tract," the researchers wrote.


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Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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