Why fist-bumps are healthier than handshakes

Two men fist-bump

UK scientists discover which hand greetings transfer the most bacteria

LAST UPDATED AT 11:35 ON Mon 28 Jul 2014

A fist-bump is a healthier greeting than a handshake, according to new research conducted by British scientists.

Researchers at Aberystwyth University analysed which hand greetings passed on the most germs. They found that using a fist-bump instead of a handshake can reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses by up to 90 per cent.

The scientists dipped a rubber glove into a bacterial-broth so the exterior was coated in E. coli. They then performed a range of hand greetings including fist-bumps, high-fives and handshakes.

The findings showed that a handshake transferred ten times as many bacteria as a fist-bump, with a high-five falling somewhere in between. Researchers said that fist-bumps transferred less bacteria because they are shorter in duration and involve a smaller area of contact than alternative greetings. As for handshakes, the briefer they are the fewer bacteria are likely to be transferred.

David Cameron was seen engaging in an awkward high-five with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker earlier this month. However, Barack Obama is known to be a fan of the fist-bump.

One of the researchers, Dr Dave Whitworth, tells the BBC: "There is definitely a serious side to this story, superficially it is very whimsical, but there is a serious message underneath. If there's a flu pandemic then handshaking might be something you want to think about or in a hospital with the spread of superbugs."

However, an official from Public Health England suggested a return to an old English tradition would reduce the risk yet further. "The ultimate approach to avoiding germs would be if we went back to the Victorian age when on meeting someone you would bow or curtsy from a respectful distance – no germs there". · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.

Read more about