Did you know that touch is the first sense to develop in the infant? Through touch an infant is able to make sense of their world. Without touch an infant fails to thrive. UNICEF has stated that for every three months spent in an orphanage, one month of growth and development is lost. The children rescued from Romanian orphanages who are now adults look like 10 year olds. 20 minutes of touch a day – just moving their limbs – is all that is needed to restimulate an infant or child’s development and set them on a healthy track.
Similarly, a study with baby chimpanzees showed how touch affected growth. Two baby chimps were separated from their mother – one chimp was given a plastic teat to suckle from and the other was given the mother’s teat through a wall to suckle from. Both were given the same amount of time to suckle. Over a period of six weeks, the baby chimp suckling from their mother’s teat gained weight normally and thrived but the other one failed to gain weight and withered. Both these situations really demonstrate the importance of touch to our growth and development.
As we get older we tend to touch and be touched less and less. It’s a pity because touch is so good for our health and wellbeing. Nurturing touch causes the release of Human Growth Hormone – essential for injury repair, bone mineralisation, increased muscle mass, protein synthesis, immune function etc – and also the release of the hormone oxytocin which not only makes us feel happier but is so good for our cardiovascular health. So you see touch isn’t just good for babies. We all need to be touched – in a nurturing way through hugs or massage – because it’s good for our bodies and it makes us feel better too.
In our society, feelings of loneliness and isolation are common particularly amongst the elderly. Giving someone a hug or a friendly stroke of the arm can do them a power of good by boosting their mood and feeling of connectedness. So, if you haven’t already, give someone a hug today. It’ll make them feel better and you too.