Factors Affecting Personal Hygiene

Good hygiene, or personal cleanliness, not only helps maintain a healthy self-image, but is important in preventing the spread of infections and disease. According to nursing textbook "Tabbner's Nursing Care: Theory and Practice," poor hygiene allows dried sweat, dirt and sebum to collect on your skin, providing an ideal environment for fungi and bacteria. Physical, psychological and social factors can affect a person's ability or willingness to perform the self-care tasks necessary for good hygiene.

Physical Factors

In many cases, people understand the importance of good hygiene and wish to practice it, but are prevented from doing so by physical factors that make them unable to accomplish the mechanics of bathing. Paraplegics and amputees usually require some assistance with hygiene tasks from family members or caregivers. Hygiene Expert notes that temporary physical limitations on performing self-care -- such as post-operative incisions or plaster casts -- may follow an illness, injury or hospital stay; in these cases, family or friends can be of assistance. People with conditions that limit mobility -- such as back problems, obesity or arthritis -- may have difficulty getting in or out of a bathtub or shower; Hygiene Expert suggests the use of shower fittings, shower chairs or tub rails. The University of Southern California Department of Gerontology endorses the use of grab bars and skid-proof strips if reluctance to bathe stems from poor balance and fear of falling.

Psychological Factors

Mental and psychological issues can affect both a person's ability and motivation to perform basic hygiene. The University of Southern California Department of Gerontology notes that hygiene problems can arise in later stages of Alzheimer's disease, with apathy, fearfulness, depression, inability to plan or remember and inability to perform tasks in sequence all reducing the person's ability to practice good hygiene. Family members may be able to help by leaving out soap and towels to provide a visual cue, reminding the person to wash or perform oral hygiene, or posting a bathing schedule. Psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and borderline personality often cause a pronounced lack of interest in hygiene, and poor hygiene can sometimes be a diagnostic tool pointing toward a certain condition. According to Mental Health.com, poor hygiene can be a red flag for major depressive disorder. It is not always major psychological disorders that cause poor hygiene; sometimes social isolation and poor self-esteem can contribute to lack of interest in grooming. Hygiene Expert points out that, conversely, a person's health can also be injured by too-stringent hygiene; people with obsessive-compulsive disorder may wash too frequently, scrub too vigorously and use harsh or injurious soaps.

Social and Economic Factors

Social and economic factors can have an impact on personal hygiene as well. Hygiene Expert says some cases of poor hygiene can stem from lack of understanding or training in the fundamentals of hygiene. Financial hardships, such as the inability to pay a water bill or procure sufficient soap and towels, can also play a role.