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Published On: Thu, Jul 31st, 2014

Why a high-five or a ‘fist bump’ is more hygienic than a handshake

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high-fiveThen men of a certain age do it, they risk looking slightly ridiculous.

But it seems a high-five has at least one advantage – experts say it is better for health than a handshake.

A British study has found that slapping palms together at head height passes on fewer than half as many germs as the traditional greeting.

This might be some consolation for David Cameron, who was accused of displaying a lack of dignity earlier this month after using the ‘street’ gesture when meeting European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

The high-five was said to defuse tension at the meeting, the first since the Prime Minister failed to block the former Luxembourg leader from taking the EU’s most powerful post.

However, it was made clear Mr Juncker initiated the unorthodox greeting.

For the study, two Aberystwyth University researchers donned thick rubber gloves and one dipped his hand in a bacterial soup before shaking the other’s hand.

The number of bugs transmitted to the second glove was counted and the contact area measured.

Then the procedure was repeated with high-fives and also with the even trendier fistbump, which involves two balled fists being gently and briefly rapped together.

The high-five was more hygienic than the handshake but the fistbump was the cleanest of all, transferring around one-twentieth of the bugs of the handshake.

It is thought that the brevity of the action and the smaller contact area helped slash transmission.

Fans of the fistbump include US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.

Speaking after a husband-wife fistbump was caught on camera in 2008, she said: ‘I’m not that hip. I got this from the young staff – it’s the new high-five.’

Aberystwyth University researcher Dave Whitworth recommended that doctors and other hospital staff avoid handshakes with patients.

For those for whom only a handshake conveys the correct level of respect, tips include keeping it brief and weak.

As for the etiquette of it all, Dr Whitworth said: ‘That is something everyone would have to improvise with. There will be some people who are quite happy fist-bumping all the time and there will be some who will look on aghast.’



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