The largest study ever conducted on touch was conducted right before the pandemic hit. Goldsmiths University London and the BBC came together to survey 40,000 people across 112 countries on their attitudes about interpersonal touch.
The test ran from January 21, 2020, to March 30, 2020. While age and personality had a strong influence on a person's willingness for physical contact, the results showed that touch is essential for physical and mental health in reducing stress and pain.
Key Findings on Touch
- 88% of respondents said they liked engaging in public displays of affection
- 72% reported a positive attitude toward touch
- 63% dislike being touched by a stranger, with younger people disliking this much more than older people
- 61% said a hug from their partner before bed had a positive impact on their sleep
- 54% reported getting too little touch in their daily lives
- 50% feel that today's society (even pre-pandemic) did not provide enough opportunities for interpersonal touch
- 33% did not feel positively about touch
- 3% said they receive too much interpersonal touch
Interestingly, when it comes to likes and dislikes about touch, attitudes vary from person to person. For those who didn't feel positively about touch, however, researchers discovered that those same people also found it difficult to form trusting relationships.
“Now, with social distancing and the pandemic, touch has taken on a new resonance," noted Claudia Hammond, presenter of the Touch Test on BBC Radio 4, in an interview with Science Focus.
“Touch is not a luxury—it plays such a key role in life, cutting across so many aspects, including benefits for mental health, general health and our immune system as well as social benefits, how we form bonds, and how we maintain them," said lead researcher Michael Banissy in an interview with the Global Wellness Institute.