Study says feeling grossed out can actually help you stay healthy, validating germaphobes everywhere
If you’re easily grossed out and havevbeen made fun of for your seemingly irrational fears, this new study is for you. The next time someone tries to make you feel like you’re overreacting to bugs in the house or a bit of mold on some cheese, you can remind them that, according to science, feeling disgusted actually keeps us healthy. In other words, being afraid of that dive bar’s nasty bathroom or not wanting to walk through muck without your wellies means that you’re highly evolved.
The study, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), surveyed over 2,500 people online and listed 75 potentially “disgusting” scenarios we might encounter. According to CNN, some of the situations listed included: your friend showing you an “oozing lesion on his foot,” feeling something sticky on a handle you touch, “lumpy, stale milk” on cereal, a hairless cat rubbing on your leg, spotting a cockroach in the kitchen, or seeing a woman pick her nose.
For the record, two-thirds of the respondents were women with an average age of 28 years old. The scenario rated most disgusting was a wound with pus coming out of it, followed by most “violations of hygiene norms,” such as someone with BO or a nose-picker.
They found that there were six very obvious categories of disgust, and all of them are directly related to ancestral diseases. The categories were poor hygiene, promiscuous sex, animals that bring disease, wounds, rotten food, and atypical appearances.
For example, in the past, coming close to someone with bad hygiene could lead to leprosy, and eating spoiled food could mean contracting cholera. Contact with open wounds could lead to the plague or smallpox. Promiscuous sex could lead to infectious diseases. See the historical connections?
Val Curtis, lead author of the study, said in a statement,
"Disgust evolved to protect us from disease in our ancient past. The disgust response today may or may not be a good guide to what might make us sick today."
Since we can’t catch the plague or get smallpox anymore, thanks to vaccines and modern medicine, your disgust and fear of rats or moldy food might not be especially beneficial these days. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash your hands — and feel entirely free to not look at your friend’s nasty, infected wound if you don’t want to. Being disgusted is actually a sign that you’re evolved, and that’s definitely a good thing.