Science Confirms Hugs Can Ease Pain, Anxiety, And Depression : ScienceAlert

You may have already guessed it, but science has confirmed it: hugs are good for your health.

Hugs and other forms of physical contact can improve the physical and mental health of people of all ages, according to a new review of 212 previous studies.

By combining the results of all these studies, the research team – from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany and the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience – was able to obtain a broader view of the potential benefits of touch.

“We were aware of the importance of touch as a health intervention, but despite numerous studies, we still did not know how to use it optimally, what concrete effects we could expect from it and what were the influencing factors”, explains neuroscientist Julian Packheiser from Ruhr University. Bochum.

This new research, involving 12,966 participants across all different studies, has provided some clarity. Touch has been shown to help reduce feelings of pain, depression, and anxiety, and its positive effect has been seen in both children and adults.

Although the type of contact (from hugs to massages) doesn’t seem to matter much, touching the head or face seems to work best. Shorter, more frequent contact leads to more positive reactions, the study suggests.

Interestingly, contact with inanimate objects – weighted blankets, body pillows or even robots – can help in terms of physical health, but is not so good for mental health. Touches from humans and animals tend to be beneficial both physically and mentally.

Newborns also benefit from touch, but the positive influence is significantly greater when the touch comes from a parent, research shows. As we get older, whether or not the contact comes from someone we know well becomes less important.

“The study clearly shows that touch can indeed be optimized, but the most important factors are not necessarily the ones we suspect,” says neuroscientist Christian Keysers from the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience.

Of course, even if a large-scale meta-analysis like this can identify broader trends within populations, responses to touch still vary a lot from person to person. Researchers also emphasize that touch must be consensual for it to be beneficial.

However, for many of us, spending more time in physical contact with others can strengthen many aspects of our health, data shows – perhaps not surprising given that touch is the primary our senses to develop, and something we usually miss when it’s not there.

“If you want to hug your family or friends, don’t hold back, as long as the other person agrees,” says Packheiser.

The research was published in Human behavior.

News Source :
Gn Health

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