Consensual 'touch interventions' boost both physical and mental health


The best benefits from massage can be obtained from massaging the head and face. — AFP

What could be more pleasant than a massage to relieve the tension?

Whether massaging pressure points below the nape of the neck, vigorously kneading the shoulders, or just stroking someone's back, various forms of massage can help us feel more relaxed.

In fact, massage is thought to be helpful for lowering blood pressure and soothing states of stress or depression.

Now, scientists have investigated the physical and mental health benefits of consensual forms of touch, such as hugs, kisses or massage, which they call "touch interventions".

In a paper published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, they explain: "The recent coronavirus pandemic has raised awareness regarding the need to better understand the effects that touch – and its reduction during social distancing – can have on our mental and physical well-being."

Drawing on over 100 different studies between 2021 and 2022 to form a meta-analysis involving almost 13,000 people, the study found that touch not only helps to regulate levels of cortisol – the famous "stress" hormone – but it can also help reduce pain and increase the weight of newborn babies.

These so-called "touch interventions" are consensual and performed by others, not by machines or robots.

According to this analysis, such interventions by the latter two have lesser effects in terms of mental well-being.

For physical health, however, the effects are similar.

The good news for singles, however, is that massages don't have to be performed by a partner.

The benefits are no less significant if they're performed by a health professional.

So where's best to massage to reap the full rewards?

The head, say researchers!

More precisely, touching not just the scalp, but also the face, is said to provide the greatest benefits, compared to touching the arm or torso.

And how often and for how long should touch be delivered?

"For adults, the median touch duration across studies was 20 minutes, and the median number of touch interventions was four sessions, with an average time interval of 2.3 days between each session," the researchers state. – AFP Relaxnews

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Massage , mental health , health


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