Is keeping girls clean harming their health?

Fascinating interview with philosopher Sharyn Clough suggesting that it might be.

There’s a growing body of research showing that children exposed to lots of germs early in life are less likely to develop allergies, asthma or autoimmune disorders as they grow up.

But now there’s a new twist on the theory, known as the hygiene hypothesis in scientific circles, and it’s about little girls in cute little dresses.

In an article in the peer-reviewed journal Social Science and Medicine, Sharyn Clough, a philosopher of science at Oregon State University who studies research bias, says young girls are held to a higher standard of cleanliness than young boys, a discrepancy that could help explain later health differences.

Girls are expected to stay squeaky clean while boys are encouraged to play outside, Clough argues. And that might explain why women have higher rates of certain illnesses.

Women have a higher rate of asthma than men — 8.5 percent compared to 7.1 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re also more likely than men to have allergies. And the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association says autoimmune disorders affect women three times more often than men.

H/T Leiter.

3 thoughts on “Is keeping girls clean harming their health?

  1. So tomboys are more likely to survive a plague!

    This doesn’t surprise me…
    I only take one shower a month and I’m healthy as a horse…

    I’m kidding, but my parents didn’t drag me to the doctor for antibiotics every time I had the sniffles, I played in the dirt more than most little girls, and I don’t rub my hands with that hand sanitizer 100 times a day.

    But it makes sense.
    It’s like the whole idea behind immunizations: If your body recognizes the attacker, it can better deal with it.

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