All it takes is a touch for better mental health


A welcomed touch, whether long or short, can have a positive effect on a person’s state of mind. — dpa

A gentle touch, a relaxing massage or a firm hug – all these kinds of human contact can alleviate pain, depression and anxiety in adults and children, according to a new analysis of more than 130 international studies.

Not only human touch, but also that of robots and cuddly toys makes a difference, according to the analysis, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour by a research team based in Germany and the Netherlands.

“Touch that is desired improves the well-being of people with illnesses in clinical situations, as well as healthy people,” explained study author Dr Julian Packheiser from Germany’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

“Anyone who has the impulse to hug family or friends should therefore not hold back unless the other person refuses it.”

The research team’s findings show that shorter, but more frequent, touches are particularly beneficial.

“The longer the touch, the better,” says Dr Packheiser.

“It doesn’t have to be a long, expensive massage, even a short hug has a positive effect.”

Touching objects such as robots, cuddly toys or cushions, also has a positive effect.

These lead to similar physical benefits as touch from people, but to smaller benefits for mental health.

Both adults and small children benefit from touch.

“For infants, it is important that it is the parents who carry out the touching.

“Their touch has a better effect than that of carers,” reported Dr Helena Hartmann from Germany’s University of Duisburg-Essen.

“In adults, however, there are no differences between familiar people and professional staff.”

The greatest effect of touch on adults was demonstrated by the numerous studies on the mental state of the test subjects.

Pain, depression and anxiety decreased significantly.

Physical contact also had a positive effect on cardiovascular factors such as blood pressure and heart rate, but the effect was less pronounced. – dpa

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Mental health , anxiety , depression , pain


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