In recent years a wave of studies has documented the incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health. The science of touch convincingly suggests that we’re wired to - and need to - connect with other people on a basic physical level. To deny that is to deprive ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys and deepest comforts.
Touch Research Institute: Located at the University of Miami School of Medicine, the Touch Research Institute was founded in 1972 under the leadership of Tiffany Fields, Ph.D. It was the world’s first centre focused solely on touch and its application in the areas of science and medicine. This site contains abstracts of their publications Learn More>
National Institutes of Health PubMed: More than 20 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books, may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites. Use search works to find citations on massage topics. Learn More>
"In the Institute's experiments, touch lessened pain, improved pulmonary function, increased growth in infants, lowered blood glucose and improved immune function."
"Social scientists have shown in many studies over the years that supportive touch can have good outcomes in a number of different realms."
An article from NPR speaking to a touch researcher and an experimental psychologist.
"While embracing strangers may terrify those of us who value personal space, there’s real science behind the benefits of positive touch. From reducing stress to combating depression, cuddling is the coziest medicine.
"Last year, a study found that hugging could help fight the common cold... participants (exposed to the virus) who had strong support systems and received frequent hugs experienced less severe symptoms."
"Humans are social creatures, which means we love hanging out with each other and being touched. In fact, simple human touch - like hand holding, hugging, and cuddling - releases a cocktail of hormones in our brains including dopamine, serotonin, and the aforementioned oxytocin, all of which make us feel good. Oxytocin has also been shown to decrease depression."
"Not only does cuddling with someone make us feel safer during a scary movie, it can also make us feel safer about life in general. Over the course of several studies, researchers found that human touch had the ability to quell existential fears - the big fears we carry around about life and death - especially in people with low self-esteem. In one study, participants felt less anxious about death after a simple touch on the shoulder compared to participants who weren’t touched."
An article in Psychology Today citing various studies.
"In 2009 DePauw University psychologist Matthew Hertenstei demonstrated that we have an innate ability to decode emotions via touch alone".
"If touch is a language, it seems we instinctively know how to use it. But apparently it's a skill we take for granted. When asked about it, the subjects in Hertenstein's studies consistently underestimated their ability to communicate via touch - even while their actions suggested that touch may in fact be more versatile than voice, facial expression, and other modalities for expressing emotion."
"If there's a most appropriate time to communicate via touch, it's probably when someone needs consoling. "Research shows that touch is the best way to comfort."
"In addition to calming us down and reducing our stress response, a friendly touch also increases release of the oxytocin - also called the "cuddle hormone" - which affects trust behaviours."
"The surging of oxytocin makes you feel more trusting and connected. And the cascade of electrical impulses slows your heart and lowers your blood pressure, making you feel less stressed and more soothed. Remarkably, this complex surge of events in the brain and body are all initiated by a simple, supportive touch."
An article citing various studies.
"A full-body hug stimulates your nervous system while decreasing feelings of loneliness, combating fear, increasing self-esteem, defusing tension, and showing appreciation."
"Extended and long hugs can increase the release of serotonin which eventually increases happiness and promotes a joyful mood. "
"The release of oxytocin reduces cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone that promotes pain and negativity in your body."
“A hug, pat on the back, and even a friendly handshake are processed by the reward center in the central nervous system, which is why they can have a powerful impact on the human psyche, making us feel happiness and joy… And it doesn’t matter if you’re the toucher or touchee. The more you connect with others — on even the smallest physical level — the happier you’ll be.”
"Cuddling can help in reducing and even curing insomnia. People who have sleep disorders can be helped by a nurturing cuddle. Cuddling soothes your nervous points, relaxing them and giving you a good peaceful sleep."
"With all of that evidence piling up… it may be time to pull out all the stops to get the amount of cuddling you need to be healthy and happy."
An article about touch and pain relief.
"Interpersonal touch has important social and affective meanings. Skin-to-skin touch is necessary to the development of premature infants. It contributes to the regulation of stress responses in adults, enhances trust, and provides comfort and emotional well being. So while it’s unlikely that this research solves the problem of painkillers, it does propose a very simple pain treatment with an indispensable side effect: connecting with other people."
An article quoting various sources.
"Cuddling and hugging strengthens the immune system by stimulating the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free."
"A 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body that can significantly improve your health. According to one study, this includes a lower risk of heart disease, stress reduction, fight fatigue, boost your immune system, fight infections and ease depression."