Well aging

Does our sense of touch make us happier?

Our skin is important. Treating it well shouldn’t be underestimated.

Monkeys enjoy around one and a half hours of physical contact a day. In this respect, their personal hygiene also plays a major role. Removing lice from each other requires them to have social contact and be physically close. Interestingly, people who are over 30 years of age only get about five minutes of physical contact, even if they have a strong relationship. Psychologists worry about this, since not only does cuddling makes you happy, it also keeps you healthy.

Sports teams are more successful when hugs and high fives are part of team building rituals. Waitresses get more tips if they lightly touch their guests' arms or shoulders. Whether female or male, it doesn’t matter to the staff or the guests. Hugs with friends and colleagues reduce stress and frustrations. Touch fosters trust while strengthening gratitude and affection.

It’s pretty amazing what physical contact can do to us and what happens when its missing. Psychologists explain that lonely people without partners are more likely to get sick and live shorter lives. And they tend to be unhappier. Some to the point that they go to organized cuddle parties – sex free therapeutic events that American sex therapist Reid Mihalko and his partner Marcia Baczynski invented in 2004.

A touch says more than a thousand words because it is the first language a person understands. And the only one that will never be forgotten.

Werner Bartens

Medical doctor and senior editor in the science department of the Süddeutsche Zeitung

In his book "How touch helps" Werner Bartens, a medical doctor and senior editor in the science department of the Süddeutsche Zeitung describes that Fetuses react to their mother’s touch only after eight weeks, when they caress their tummies. This is way before they can smell and see. Even if a baby is born blind or deaf, it can still develop well. But without touch, a child’s mental and physical development will be delayed. Some experts even believe that having regular intense contact is essential for the development of our human species.

The skin plays a crucial role in this. Two square meters envelop our body and make the skin its largest organ. Besides the tongue and lips, our hands have the most sensors on the surface of the body. They are extremely sensitive making them particularly adept to feeling and caressing. Touching the skin conveys electrical impulses to the brain, whether someone is being touched or whether they are doing the touching.



Love has to do with chemistry

In some situations, the hormone oxytocin is then released, otherwise known as the cuddle hormone or hug hormone. It is supposed to make us more empathetic, improve our social behavior and generally strengthen our immune system.

Studies show that the surface of the skin can have an influence on feeling and being felt. For example, dry skin is usually rougher, and we can consciously perceive this. The mechanical properties of dry skin can also change, which can be felt as a feeling of tension, among other things. Touching the skin can be affected by vibrations, changes in temperature, or if the skin indents when touched. And these can change depending on the condition of the skin. 

In addition to our feelings, sensations and perceptions, our sense of touch is of particular importance, as the experimental psychologist Martin Grunwald describes in his publications. Our sense of touch also satisfies our human need for physical closeness. This helps people to know they are not alone in the world. "It’s easier to plan a one-night stand via dating apps than to get a hug," says the well-known haptic researcher. He even goes so far when evaluating its importance to say: "Feeling and touching is much more important for our survival than seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting." 

Don’t underestimate the skin’s importance as a vital organ. Increased mindfulness and taking really good, consistent care of ourselves not only helps keep our natural beauty as we get older, it is also very important for optimal physical and mental health.