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The Power of Human Touch

by Chelsey Alzate

When was the last time you've hugged someone or patted them on the shoulder? Hour ago? A day? A week? No matter whom it was or how, touch has affected you in some way. Did you know that a caring touch, such as a hug, hand holding, and patting can reduce stress, lessen pain, and improve the immune functions? A research study done in the University of Miami explains that a caring touch like hand holding or a massage lowers stress hormones and blood pressure (Bauer). The lowering of stress hormone is shown particularly in men (Jayson). Touch is not a cure for any illness but is proven to help reduce intensity of any illness or disorder. So a little touch, here and there, can go a long way.

Touch doesn't just affect men; it also affects women and any age group starting with infancy. A study at the University of North Carolina states that a woman can increase her levels of oxytocin and lessen her heart rate just by touch, especially if it's from her partner (Dworkin-McDaniel). Why is oxytocin important? Oxytocin, particularly in women, helps in reducing stress. It is also known as the "cuddle" hormone because it creates a feeling of bonding and belonging. Brain scans of people under duress showed that fear or threat related activity in the brain was significantly reduced when a loved one grabbed their hand (Dworkin-McDaniel). This simple touch creates a comfort that even the brain can't ignore.
Previously, it was mentioned that touch could help improve the immune functions. How can a simple touch contribute to improving the immune system? What science is behind it? Well, the term to explain this phenomenon is called libidinal refueling. This fancy word just means that when you receive a friendly, kind touch, it recharges the libido (Canfield). The libido is simply “refueling” itself and building up the immune system.


So we know how touch affects men and women, but what about infants and children? Have you ever heard the saying, "if you don’t touch a baby, it will die?" It's a scary statement, but there is some truth to it. Touch is how a baby gets its knowledge from the world (Benjamin 1-3). Touch improves pulmonary function and increases the infant's growth, but this need does not disappear as people go into adolescence (Bauer). A 1998 study found in the Toronto Star Newspaper revealed that abnormally high levels of stress hormone can be found it children who grow up without a regular touch, like hugs and patting (Allen).  On the other end, those who have been touched until about the adolescent stage are more likely to express emotions and be intimately and romantically invested in their relationships (Canfield).
New studies and research stresses the importance of touch and touch therapy as a way to fight against illnesses and medical conditions. This research also explains that touch therapy can help improve conditions like osteoarthritis, depression, fibromyalgia and more (Ehmann).


A simple yet caring touch to someone near and loving to you can go a long way. The great thing about touch is that it doesn’t just affect other people; it also improves our lives and well-being as well. So instead of an apple a day, try an apple and a hug a day to keep the stress away.   

 

Works Cited

Allen, Veronica. "The Power of the Human Touch." HubPages. HubPages, 15 Dec 2010. Web. 10 Jan 2013.

Bauer, Mary. "Importance of Human Touch." Livestrong.com. LIVESTRONG foundation, 30 Mar 2011. Web. 10 Jan 2013. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/186495-importance-of-human-touch/>.

Benjamin, Ben. "Health Touch News." Primacy of Human Touch. 22 Sep 2000: 1-3. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.

Canfield, Jack. "The Importance of Human Touch." BestSteps. TrueYou. Web. 10 Jan 2013.

Dworkin-McDaniel, Norine. "Touching Makes You Healthier." CNN Health. CNN, 05 Jan 2011. Web. 10 Jan 2013.

Ehmann, Lain . "The Health Benefits of Touch." Beliefnet. EBSCO, n.d. Web. 10 Jan 2013.

Jayson, Sharon. "Human Touch May Have Some Healing Properties." USA TODAY. USA Today, 28 Sep 2008. Web. 10 Jan 2013.

 



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