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Humans are wired to be touched. From birth until the day we die, our need for physical contact remains. Being touch starved — also known as skin hunger or touch deprivation — occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things. The condition seems to be more common in countries that are becoming increasingly touch averse. For example, a study measured to what degree people welcomed touch in five countries. Finland and France were found to be at the top, while the United Kingdom was at the bottom. Why cultures vary in their acceptance of touch, no one is sure.
It may be due to the rise in technology use, a fear of touching being viewed as inappropriate, or cultural factors. But research from has found that missing out on regular human touch can have some serious and long-lasting effects. During the COVID pandemic, many people are losing out on workplace handshakes, friendly hugsor pats on the back, which can result in feelings of touch starvation. For some, the pandemic has also brought a decline in sensual touching, such as holding handsback scratching, and foot rubbingtoo. Scientists have found that a system of nerve fibers, called C-tactile afferents, exists to recognize any form of gentle touch.
In fact, according to a studythe ideal touching speed is about 3 centimeters per second. When you feel snowed under or pressured, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol. One of the biggest things touch can do is reduce such stress, allowing the immune system to work the way it should. Touch can also calm certain bodily functionssuch as your heart rate and blood pressure. It does so by stimulating pressure receptors that transport als to the vagus nerve.
This nerve connects the brain to the rest of the body. It uses the als to slow the pace of the nervous system. In early life, touch is thought to be crucial for building healthy relationships by stimulating pathways for oxytocin, the natural antidepressant serotoninand the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine. Plus, it can tackle loneliness. According to a studygentle touch can reduce both pain and feelings of social exclusion. But in a nutshell, you may feel overwhelmingly lonely or deprived of affection. You may also subconsciously do things to simulate touch, such as taking long, hot baths or showers, wrapping up in blankets, and even holding on to a pet.
Some people closely link touch with trust. For example, not liking touch is sometimes reported by people on the neurodiverse spectrum and people who are asexual. It may also be a result of childhood experiences. A study suggests that people whose parents were regular huggers were more likely to hug people in adulthood. Keep in mind you may need to dial these activities back a bit during the COVID pandemic, or avoid them until your local health officials give the OK:. With lockdowns, closed businesses, and medical advice to physically distance and avoid touching people not in your household, human touch has dwindled to a slow stream.
For some, it has dried up altogether.
If you live with other people or are part of a pod, there are likely people you can touch safely. You might try the tips below. Or maybe you live with people who work in high-risk settings. In these and countless other scenarios, you may not have the opportunity for touch, or you may not feel safe with any human touch right now. There are still ways you can help satisfy your touch hunger — without physical contact.
Try the tips below. They might not be the real thing, but they do provide human contact and interaction:. There are plenty of ways to beat the condition and inspire positive, affectionate touch in those around you. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters.
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What does it mean to be 'touch starved'?