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Largest ever global touch study reveals 54 per cent of people feel touch-hungry

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Touch is not a luxury and is vital to healthy living

In a COVID-19 era, human touch and physical connection are being restricted like never before, but results from the world’s largest global touch study show that 54 per cent of people felt they had too little touch in their lives, even before the pandemic.

Developed by researchers at Goldsmiths University of London and launched by the BBC and Wellcome Collection, The Touch Test ran from January to the final week in March (one week after lockdown started in the UK), and was launched to “explore our attitudes towards the physical experience of touch” and investigate whether contemporary society experiences ‘touch hunger’.

The people who reported that they lacked enough touch were asked why, with the two most common responses being issues of consent and lack of social interaction.

The power of touch is a pillar of the wellness industry, that’s been proven to provide numerous benefits for health and wellbeing such as lowering stress levels and boosting the immune system, according to studies by The Touch Research Institute in Miami.

The survey found that 72 per cent of people reported a positive attitude towards touch (with 27 per cent experiencing a negative feeling) and that people who liked interpersonal touch tended to have higher levels of wellbeing and lower levels of loneliness.

BBC presenter Claudia Hammond expanded: “The Touch Test took a snapshot in time, so we can’t say which came first – the touch or the higher wellbeing, but this fits with the findings of many previous studies which have demonstrated that consensual touch is good for us physiologically and psychologically.”

Lead researcher, Professor Michael Banissy concurred: “Touch is not a luxury – it plays such a key role in life cutting across so many aspects, including benefits for mental health, general health and our immune system as well as social benefits, how we form bonds and how we maintain them.

“Touch is vital to healthy living.”

The study explored the impact of different factors on touch, such as age, sex and geographical location, and found that the biggest influence on attitudes towards touch was personality.

Banissy explained that a pattern emerged showing that respondents who were more extroverted tended to have more positive attitudes towards touch, than those who were introverted.

He believes that the next step for research into touch needs to assess the quality of touch interactions, as well as the quantity.

“We need to unpack the quality of touch more going forward, such as the type and what it means for different individuals in different settings.”

The Touch Test was conducted using an online questionnaire, reaching 40,000 respondents in 100 countries.

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In a COVID-19 era, human touch and physical connection are being restricted like never before, but results from the world’s largest global touch study show that 54 per cent of people felt they had too little touch in their lives, even before the pandemic.
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