Paula Cocozza, ‘No hugging: are we living through a crisis of touch?’,, The Guardian, Guardian News and Media Limited (7 Mar 2018)

Recover power of touch

We have demonised touch to a level at which it sparks off hysterical responses, it sparks off legislative processes, and this lack of touch is not good for mental health. (…) We seem to have been creating a touch-averse world. (…) It’s time to recover the social power of touch. (…) By watching the nerve’s discharge behaviour while the skin is stroked, scientists have learned that the optimum speed of a human caress is 3cm to 5cm a second. (…) We are destined to cuddle and stroke each other at predetermined velocities. (…) The pleasantness encourages us to keep touching, nourishes babies and binds adults, and threads wellbeing into the fabric of our being. It could also teach us more about the touch-averse, including how and when autism and eating disorders develop, and even lead us to a cure for loneliness. (…) Last year, researchers from University College London showed that slow, gentle stroking by a stranger reduced feelings of social exclusion. (…) As a society, we instinctively understand the power of touch. (…) There is as yet no scientific data to connect declining touch to the rise of mobile technology or social media, but (…) descriptions of people wrapped in their own worlds rather than each other, sitting in isolation, bowed over screens, a huddle unto themselves, are evocative and familiar. (…) Encouraging self-consciousness of the ways in which people offer and invite touch has many benefits.