Is the absence of hugs and social distance affecting our health?

Call it hunger for skin, call it lack of affection, the fact is that human beings need to relate to each other in order to be happy. But the need to feel others close, skin to skin, goes beyond affecting or not affecting our mood and mental health- A new article published in the Trends in Cognitive Sciences magazine makes it clear that not being able to hug our loved ones is also affecting physical health and is even expected to this social isolation in which we live increases the risk of premature death by 30% of the population.

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How isolation affects our health

The absence of physical contact with others affects many facets of our health. To begin with, the first victim of this absence of hugs is the brain: it has been proven that it exerts a negative influence on our ability to reason and memory while disrupting hormonal balance.

But what most worries the author of the article, Robin Dunbar, Professor of Psychology and specialist in neurobiology at the University of Oxford, is the influence that the absence of physical contact and social isolation have on our defenses: the absence of hugs is depressing our immune system. To explain it in the simplest way, without hugs, specific nerves that our skin have are not stimulated and if they are not activated, not enough endorphins are produced. These neurotransmitters are not only responsible for making us feel good, they also have a role within the immune system that, due to current circumstances, is not being fulfilled.

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The Endorphins are responsible for stimulating our defenses to produce T-killer cells, the main enemies of viruses. So the answer is yes, surely the social distancing that is so strange to us is possible that it is having some detrimental effect on our health. But as the author of the study himself recalls, at this time the most serious threat to our health is the coronavirus: we have to comply with all the measures they ask us to protect ourselves from it and later enjoy all the hugs that we are missing now.

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