Touch is good, very good
Feeling stressed? Want to be healthier? Want to live longer? Well spend half an hour cuddling on the couch with someone you like. At the very least, it is important to have a strong social network, and at least some regular physical contact with people that you like.
This is a major theme in Grow Youthful backed by a lot of research - touch and physical affection can help lower stress levels and a lot more. In a month-long study (1) researchers found that healthy married couples who enjoyed physical affection such as regularly holding hands, massaging each other, and cuddling showed significant changes in various measures of stress. In the study, they had this kind of contact for at least 30 minutes, four times per week. Their measures of stress enzymes were lower and feel-good hormones were higher than the non-cuddlers in the study.
If you don't have a partner, you can still benefit from touch and social support. Enjoyable time with friends and other family members helps your health. Time with your pet, including touch, is a great calmer. Touch your friends, if they are comfortable with it. A meal with friends and a little laughter goes a long way for your mental health. Keeping in touch, even with the phone and email is good. And if you can afford it, any kind of massage or body-work is great.
Another study showed that feeling connected and in-touch with those around you (family, close friends, workmates) is essential for your health and longevity. Those who feel lonely or socially isolated are two to three times more likely to die from heart disease, stroke and other causes than those who feel connected to people around them. (2, 4, 5)
Yet another study in the UK in 2012 confirmed that loneliness is a strong predictor of a variety of diseases and an earlier death. (3)
1. Influence of a "warm touch" support enhancement intervention among married couples on ambulatory blood pressure, oxytocin,
alpha amylase, and cortisol.
Holt-Lunstad, J. et al., Psychosomatic Medicine 2008 Nov;70(9):976-985
2. Berkman, Lisa et al. Social networks, Host Resistance and Mortality: a nine year follow up study of Alameda county residents. American Journal of Epidemiology 128 (1988): 370-380.
3. Christina R. Victora, Ann Bowling. A Longitudinal Analysis of Loneliness Among Older People in Great Britain. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied. 2012, Volume 146, Issue 3, pages 313-331.
4. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, Mark Baker, Tyler Harris, David Stephenson. Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science March 2015 vol. 10 no. 2 227-237. doi: 10.1177/1745691614568352.
5. Nicole K Valtorta, Mona Kanaan, Simon Gilbody, Sara Ronzi, Barbara Hanratty. Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies. Heart doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2015-308790. Published Online 18 April 2016.