Mental Health Support
23 Apr 2024
Two people touching each other's hands across a wooden table

Consensual touch can reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and even alleviate pain, a recent meta-analysis by researchers has shown. 

The research included 212 published studies, as well as a statistical analysis of 85 studies of adults and 52 studies of newborn babies, and is the first attempt to bring a large field of research around touch together.


The study found that regular touch was as beneficial for people’s mental health as it was for their physical health and that, although the type of touch and duration was not so important, greater frequency of touch showed increased benefits among adults. 


The analysis revealed that people gained similar benefits for their physical health, whether the touch was from other humans or from objects, such as weighted blankets or social robots. However, the most positive impact on mental health was much larger for human touch than touch from objects, because it involved skin-to-skin contact, said the researchers. 


“More consensual touch events throughout our day can help alleviate or potentially buffer against mental and physical complaints,” concluded Dr Helena Hartmann, co-author of the research from University Hospital Essen.  


The researchers were surprised that objects brought similar benefits to physical health as human touch and suggested that this is an area that requires more research.  


“This means we need to undertake more research on the potential of weighted blankets or social robots to improve people’s well-being, said Hartmann, “especially during contact-limiting situations like the recent Covid-19 pandemic.” 


The researchers concluded: “Our work illustrates that touch interventions are best suited for reducing pain, depression and anxiety in adults and children, as well as for increasing weight gain in newborns.” 


If you are struggling with your mental health, you can find local sources of support on this website.