You probably don’t realize how often you touch your face

For most of us, keeping our hands away from our faces may require a lot of willpower.

Academics in New South Wales, Australia, who trained a camera on students during a lecture, discovered their hands found their way unconsciously to their faces an average of 23 times an hour.

Another study of office workers showed they averaged 15.7 face touches per hour. By calculating how much virus might be on each person’s hands, the researchers were able to confirm that the touching posed a serious risk of disease transmission.

health coronavirus infection artificial intelligence face touching transmission bacteria germs habits neuroscience
Average number of face touches observed in a 60-minute period.
Image: American Journal of Infection Control

A recent study found that, for most people, face-touching is a way of coping with stress, regulating emotions and stimulating memory. Researchers have established it’s an instinct we share with monkeys and apes. Gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees all exhibit similar face-touching behaviour.