Touch can reduce pain, depression and anxiety, say researchers | Medical research

Researchers say the sensation of touch, whether it’s a hug from a friend or the caress of a weighted blanket, appears to benefit the body and mind.

The sense of touch is the first thing that babies develop and is very important for experiencing their environment and communicating. Indeed, the loss of contact with others during the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on many people.

But while countless studies suggest that touch is beneficial to our health, few studies have attempted to bring the vast field of research together.

Experts have done just that, revealing a simple message: “Touch helps.”

Dr. Helena Hartman is a co-author of the following study: Essen University Hospitalstates, “More consensual touch events throughout the day may alleviate or alleviate mental and physical complaints.”

Published in Nature Human Behaviorthis study included 212 previously published studies and included statistical analysis of 85 studies in adults and 52 studies in neonates.

As a result, the researchers found that contact was just as beneficial for mental health as it was for physical health. This finding held true for adults and newborns, but contact had a greater effect in some areas than others.

“Our study shows that touch interventions are optimal for reducing pain, depression, and anxiety in adults and children, and increasing weight gain in newborns,” the researchers wrote. .

The analysis shows that humans derive similar physical health benefits from being touched by other humans as they do from touching objects such as social robots or weighted blankets. became.

Hartman said it was a surprise. “This calls for further research into the potential of weighted blankets and social robots to improve people’s well-being, especially in situations where contact is limited, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic. That means,” she said.

The positive impact on mental health was greater for human contact than physical contact. That’s probably because it involves skin-to-skin contact, the researchers said.

Among other results, the researchers found that contact was beneficial for both healthy and unwell people, but the latter had a greater impact on mental health benefits.

The type of contact and its duration were not significant, but for adults, the effect was greater with higher frequency.

Additionally, touching the head was associated with greater health benefits than touching other parts of the body.

The researchers cautioned that some of their findings may be false positives, but it is unclear whether they hold across cultures.

Dr Mariana von Mohr of Royal Holloway, University of London, who was not involved in the study, said that if future robots could more accurately replicate the texture and warmth of human skin, they could have the same mental health benefits as human touch. He said that it may be able to provide benefits. .

“[These properties are] Our skin contains specialized sensors known as C-tactile afferents that are particularly sensitive to gentle caressing touch and temperature, similar to human skin, and these elements also play a role in emotional regulation. “It’s thought to promote it,” she said.

Professor Katerina Fotopoulou from University College London said the study put the benefits of touch interventions on health into perspective.

He cautioned that the study could not provide more specific conclusions, such as whether certain types of contact may be associated with specific health benefits.

Dr Susannah Walker from Liverpool John Moores University agreed, pointing out that many of the studies reviewed were small and included different types of contact and different measures of their outcomes. “This means it’s difficult to draw clear conclusions about why they work,” she said.

Fotopoulou added that the study could spur new research in this area, including how contact can be used in conjunction with other treatments.

“It is a historical misfortune that over the past several centuries we have prioritized conversation over touch and other physical therapies. This review shows that further careful research into touch interventions is needed to redress this balance. “It gave me a lot of emphasis and confidence,” she said.