TO SUR­VIVE AND STAY SANE, WE NEED TO STAY IN TOUCH

Life & Style Weekend - - YOU - HE­LEN HAWKES

Phys­i­cal touch is cru­cial to hu­man sur­vival. That’s be­cause re­searchers know there is a con­nec­tion be­tween lack of touch and lone­li­ness. And lone­li­ness harms. In a 2010 ex­per­i­ment re­gard­ing so­cial re­la­tions and health, sci­en­tists Louise Hawk­ley and John Ca­cioppo found the risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases as a young adult is higher in peo­ple who were lonely dur­ing child­hood and youth. Not only that, but that there is a con­nec­tion be­tween lone­li­ness and de­pres­sion. It is not fully clear yet whether lone­li­ness is a trig­ger for de­pres­sion or de­pres­sion is a cause for lone­li­ness. But there’s ev­i­dence that de­pres­sion is a con­se­quence of feel­ing lonely. Stud­ies also show the risk of de­vel­op­ing symp­toms of Alzheimer’s is sig­nif­i­cantly higher in peo­ple who feel lonely. You’d think this would only be a prob­lem for sin­gles. But even those who are part­nered up may suf­fer lone­li­ness or a lack of touch. With the cur­rent so­cial cli­mate, where the spot­light is be­ing shone on sex­ual ha­rass­ment, ask­ing an ac­quain­tance for a hug may be viewed un­favourably. Be­sides which, no one re­ally wants to ask for hugs. You’d like them to be given. Maybe there should be hug­ging groups, where hugs are non-sex­ual and freely avail­able. An­other so­lu­tion could be to get a mas­sage. Hav­ing an­other hu­man be­ing make phys­i­cal con­tact can re­duce feel­ings of iso­la­tion. If you’re sin­gle and not cashed up enough to have reg­u­lar mas­sage, it might help to know that all forms of phys­i­cal con­tact, no mat­ter from hu­man or an­i­mals, have been shown to be sooth­ing for our well­be­ing. A cat, a dog, a rab­bit, a horse, or even a pot-belly pig could all be good. In Ja­pan, you can buy a life-sized boyfriend doll you can snug­gle up to, while YouTube is full of videos on how to make a man­nequin – or even knit a part­ner! A lit­tle creepy, but maybe a first step if you have an emotional con­sti­pa­tion level sim­i­lar to Ryan Gosling’s char­ac­ter in Lars and the Real Girl.

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