Mental health can be improved with touch intervention

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Summary: Touch interventions significantly benefit both physical and mental health, with particular advantages for individuals facing health challenges.
Furthermore, while touch from objects or robots can improve physical well-being, human touch appears essential for alleviating mental health conditions, underscoring the emotional component of touch.
While non-human touch can aid physical health, human touch is crucial for mental well-being, indicating the importance of an emotional bond in touch interventions.
The benefits of touch on mental and physical health Does touch truly improve someone’s wellbeing?
Touch interventions across ages When the team looked into the impact of touch on newborns, they found out that newborns also benefited significantly from touch.
“A systematic review and multivariate meta-analysis of the physical and mental health benefits of touch interventions” by Christian Keysers et al.
Nature Human Behavior Abstract A systematic review and multivariate meta-analysis of the physical and mental health benefits of touch interventions Receiving touch is of critical importance, as many studies have shown that touch promotes mental and physical well-being.
Included studies always featured a touch versus no touch control intervention with diverse health outcomes as dependent variables.


In brief, touch interventions have a substantial positive impact on an individual’s physical and mental well-being, especially for those dealing with health issues. Based on the aggregate of hundreds of individual studies, the study shows that the frequency of touch matters more than its type, the person giving it, or its duration, indicating that even short-lived interactions such as hugs can have a significant impact.

Furthermore, human touch seems crucial for easing mental health conditions, highlighting the emotional component of touch, even though touch from objects or robots can enhance physical well-being. The study also emphasizes how maternal touch can improve a baby’s health in critical care circumstances and emphasizes the additional advantages of touch for newborns.

Important Information:.

Touch interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and pain; the benefits are especially noticeable in individuals who already have medical conditions.

The impact of touch frequency on well-being is greater than that of touch duration or source, indicating the power of small but meaningful gestures of connection.

Human contact is essential for mental health, even though non-human touch can benefit physical health; this suggests the significance of an emotional connection in touch interventions.

KNAW as the source.

When someone gives you a hug after a trying day or pats your shoulder when you’re feeling low, you may be able to identify the soothing sensation. However, the question still stands: does it matter who touches you or how they do it, and can touch truly make you feel better?

A thorough review of studies examining touch interventions was carried out by researchers from the University Hospital Essen and the Social Brain Lab at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in order to investigate these questions.

touch’s positive effects on both physical and mental wellness.

It’s simple to ask but harder to answer: Does touch really make a difference in someone’s well-being? Studies conducted independently of one another frequently concentrate only on particular cases.

A more definitive response can be obtained by combining all of these studies into a comprehensive analysis: touch does, in fact, significantly enhance physical and mental wellbeing, for example by lowering stress, anxiety, depression, and pain in adults. Conversely, healthy adults benefit from touch even more than those with physical or mental health issues, who are typically in need of support.

The first author, Packheiser, continues, “This is especially relevant considering how often touch interventions are overlooked.”.

The director of the Social Brain Lab, professor Keysers, continues, “leveraging the hundreds of individual studies out there to identify what type of touch works best is a key question of our study.”.

“What if you don’t have a partner or friend nearby to give you a hug? How often would touching from a stranger or even a machine help? The study unequivocally demonstrates that touch can be optimized, but the variables that matter most aren’t always the ones we might think. “.

It’s interesting to note that the impact of someone touching you is independent of their method and duration. This means that a lengthy massage from a therapist could have the same therapeutic effect as a brief embrace from a friend.

Until the frequency of the intervention is taken into account, that is. The impact of a touch intervention increases with its frequency of delivery. Therefore, if given more frequently, a quick hug may have an even greater effect than a massage.

Touch—human or non-human?

Secondly, is human intervention necessary for touch to occur at all? It turns out that interventions involving objects or robots can enhance physical wellbeing just as well.

“Many people require improvements in their well-being, possibly due to clinical conditions they may have as well as loneliness. These findings suggest that those individuals might benefit from a touch-robot or even just a basic weighted blanket, according to the final author, Frédéric Michon.

For mental wellness, however, the advantages of robot and object interventions are less potent. Therefore, it’s possible that mental health conditions like anxiety or depression need for human touch after all. Michon notes that this is “perhaps suggestive of the importance for an emotional component associated with the touch.”.

Although the researchers shared a curiosity about interactions between humans and animals, there are currently insufficient studies addressing this issue.

“There simply aren’t enough studies, or properly controlled ones, for us to draw any general conclusions on these topics,” explains Michon. “It would be useful to see whether an animal’s or pet’s touch could improve wellbeing, and inversely if they also benefit from it.”.

touch interventions for people of all ages.

After investigating the effects of touch on infants, the team discovered that these little ones profited greatly from contact as well. The person administering the touch intervention, a parent rather than a medical professional, was more crucial, though, as touch has greater benefits.

In addition, Packheiser says, “This finding could be significant.”.

The fact that a baby benefits more from their own parent’s touch provides another readily implemented form of support for the baby’s health, as premature births are associated with high death rates in some countries.

Conclusions regarding children and teenagers proved challenging due to a dearth of studies.

Michon says, “Large scale studies like this help us identify where research is lacking but they also help us draw more general conclusions.”.

We anticipate that our research will help direct future investigations into less investigated areas. Touch with animals falls under this category, as does touch with people of different ages and in particular clinical contexts, such as with individuals diagnosed with autism, a topic that has not received much research.

About this news on mental health and touch research.

Written by Eline Feenstra.

KNAW is the reference.

Eline Feenstra at KNAW can be contacted.

Picture: Neuroscience News is credited with this picture.

Original Study: Disclosed under open license.

Christian Keysers et al. conducted a multivariate meta-analysis and systematic review to examine the advantages of touch interventions for both physical and mental health. human behavior in nature.


A multivariate meta-analysis and systematic review of the advantages of touch interventions for both physical and mental health.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of touch on both physical and mental health, making it imperative that people receive touch.

In order to determine the critical factors moderating the efficacy of touch interventions, we performed a pre-registered (PROSPERO: CRD42022304281) systematic review and multilevel meta-analysis that included 137 studies in the meta-analysis and 75 additional studies in the systematic review (n = 12,966 individuals; search via Google Scholar, PubMed, and Web of Science until 1 October 2022).

All included studies included a control group that received no touch intervention versus one that received touch intervention, and the dependent variables were various health outcomes. Through the use of small studies, randomization, sequencing, performance, and attrition bias, the risk of bias was evaluated.

In babies, touch interventions were particularly successful in lowering cortisol levels (Hedges’ g = 0.78, 95 percent confidence interval (CI) 0.24 to 1.31), increasing weight (0.65, 95 percent CI 0.37 to 0.94), and lowering feelings of depression (0.59, 95 percent CI 0.40 to 0.78), state (0.64, 95 percent CI 0.44 to 0.84), or trait anxiety (0.59, 95 percent CI 0.40 to 0.77).

Similar physical benefits (0.56, 95 percent CI 0.24 to 0.88 versus 0.51, 95 percent CI 0.38 to 0.64) were observed when touch interventions involving objects or robots were compared, but lower mental health benefits (0.34, 95 percent CI 0.19 to 0.49 versus 0.58, 95 percent CI 0.43 to 0.73). When compared to healthy individuals, adult clinical cohorts experienced greater gains in mental health domains (0.63, 95 percent CI 0.46 to 0.80 versus 0.37, 95 percent CI 0.20 to 0.55).

When comparing the health benefits of touch from a familiar person or a healthcare professional to touch from a stranger, we found no difference in benefits (0.51, 95 percent CI 0.29 to 0.73 versus 0.50, 95 percent CI 0.38 to 0.61). However, parental touch was more beneficial for newborns (0.69, 95 percent CI 0.50 to 0.88 versus 0.39, 95 percent CI 0.18 to 0.61). The impossibility of blinding experimental conditions and small but significant study bias must be taken into account.

To optimize the outcomes of upcoming interventions and concentrate research in this area, it will be beneficial to leverage factors that impact the efficacy of touch interventions.

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