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Disgust could be public health tool

Monday June 4th, 2018

Humans have six common types of disgust – and these help to identify and avoid disease, according to a new analysis.

Researchers found that women feel more disgust than men.

People react innately to poor hygiene, animals carrying disease and risky sexual behaviour, according to the study at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Other forms of disgust involve reactions against skin lesions or infections, rotting food and people with atypical appearances, researchers report in the journal, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

These were classified as human disgust, animal disgust, sexual disgust, food disgust, skin/lesion disgust and atypical appearance disgust.

The researchers say the findings could help public health campaigns – such as those seeking to encourage handwashing.

Their findings come from an on-line survey of more than 2,500 people, who were asked to consider 75 potentially disgusting scenarios. About 44% of the respondents were students and 66% were female.

Researcher Professor Val Curtis said: "Although we knew the emotion of disgust was good for us, here we've been able to build on that, showing that disgust is structured, recognising and responding to infection threats to protect us.

"This type of disease avoidance behaviour is increasingly evident in animals, and so leads us to believe it is evolutionarily very ancient.

"Increasing our understanding of disgust like this could provide new insights into the mechanisms of disease avoidance behaviour, and help us develop new methods to keep our environments, fellow animals and ourselves healthy."

Curtis V, de Barra M. The structure and function of pathogen disgust. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. June 2018; doi: 10.1098/RSTB.2017.0208

Tags: General Health | MRSA & Hygiene | UK News

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