Updated: Mar 28
We know touch is as essential to our existence as shelter, food and warmth - but given the physical restrictions this year and last, it is likely that many of us have felt ‘touch-hungry’ and in need of supportive. compassionate touch.
1 in 2 Australians (51%) report they feel lonely for at least 1 day each week (Australian Psychological Society 2018).
Most incidents of loneliness will last for 1 year or less, however, if loneliness lasts longer than this it is likely to last for 3 or more years (Baker 2012).
The Young Australian Loneliness Survey by Swinburne University found:
57 per cent of young people said they lack companionship sometimes or always
55 per cent of young people said they sometimes or always feel left out
17 per cent of young people reported they feel there are rarely people they can talk to
Young adults (aged 18–25) reported more loneliness than adolescents (aged 12–17)
Young women reported more loneliness, social anxiety and depressive symptoms than young men
Director of Swinburne’s Social Health and Wellbeing Laboratory and Scientific Chair of the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness, Dr Michelle Lim, says while it is normal for people to feel lonely, the level of young people’s loneliness indicated in the report was concerning.
The BBC explored this with its excellent Radio 4 Anatomy of Touch and within this the Touch Test, an online study commissioned by Wellcome Collection in collaboration with BBC Radio 4. This identified nine key findings and perhaps one of the most pertinent is that “People who like interpersonal touch tend to have higher levels of well-being and lower levels of loneliness”.
People who like interpersonal touch tend to have higher levels of well-being and lower levels of loneliness
The Touch Test took a snapshot in time, so we can’t say which came first – the touch or the higher well-being, but this fits with the findings of many previous studies which have demonstrated that consensual touch is good for us physiologically and psychologically.
People who like interpersonal touch tend to be more extraverted than those who don’t like it, however those suffering mental health & loneliness are alleviated and healed through therapeutic touch, including massage, shiatsu, kinesiology.
Of all the factors the Touch Test examined, such as age, sex and where in the world people live, personality had the biggest effect on attitudes towards touch. The other factor which made a difference was people’s relationship style. Those who prefer to be independent in their relationships and who can find it hard to get emotionally close to people tended to feel less positive about touch.
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Australian Psychological Society 2018. Australian loneliness report: A survey exploring the loneliness levels of Australians and the impact on their health and wellbeing. Melbourne: APS.