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Human touch top priority for our wellbeing according to new research

A global study led by British academics has found that human touch is crucial to combatting loneliness and supporting our mental wellbeing.

The Touch Test was spearheaded by BBC Radio 4 and the Wellcome Collection, looking at public attitudes towards touching and being touched. More than 40,000 people from 112 countries took part in the survey, in what is the largest study of its kind.

The research has perhaps become even more relevant in 2020 following restrictions introduced around the world to curb physical gatherings of people where human touch is ever present.

The survey, which was conducted before the lockdown began in March, found that nearly half of us feel that society does not allow us to touch enough. Nearly nine out of 10 of us (88%) like public displays of affection and nearly eight out of 10 of us (79%) like physical touch from friends. Positive attitudes towards touch were higher in older people and in women.

The survey was developed and analysed by academics from Goldsmiths, University of London, who worked alongside academics from University College London and the University of Greenwich.

Claudia Hammond, presenter of Radio 4’s All in the Mind, the programme where The Touch Test was aired on 6 October, said:

The response we had to the study shows what a critical topic touch is in society today and of course with social distancing due to the pandemic touch has taken on a new resonance.

Professor Michael Banissy, Head of the School of Professional Services, Science and Technology at Goldsmiths said:

The data provide one of the most detailed sources of insight that we have on contemporary attitudes and experiences of touch. It indicates the importance of touch in our lives, and shows the crucial role that individual differences play in this.

You can listen to the programme on the BBC website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000n5xx

Photo by Rachel Coyne

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