Touch, hugs and rubs can buoy well-being and lessen pain, depression and anxiety. Dutch and German researchers reviewed years of research that compared individuals who had been physically touched with their consent over the course of an experiment to similar individuals who had not. The analysis showed that among adults, sick people showed greater mental health benefits from touch than healthy people; newborn babies benefit more from their parents’ touch than a stranger’s touch; and women benefit more than men. But some things remain mysterious. Touching the head seems more beneficial than touching the torso, and studies in South America tended to show stronger health benefits than studies in North America or Europe.

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