Here’s Why We All Need to Hug More

A lack of connectivity in today’s increasingly remote world has a huge impact on our wellbeing as a population, with over-50s citing a 49% increase in chronic loneliness in the last decade.

Although often dismissed as a platitude, the simple act of a hug is more powerful than you might think. When we give or receive ‘slow touch’ such as a hug, it activates a set of nerves which trigger a flux of neurochemicals in the brain, including dopamine and oxytocin, the latter which is sometimes called the love chemical. It’s what’s present during birth and is known to help promote emotional bonding with other people. Indeed, many experts agree that hugging children frequently helps them to become better rounded individuals as they move into adulthood. In one particular study, levels of vasopressin, a hormone that plays a big role in familial bonding, were compared in adopted children who began life in orphanages and kids in affectionate homes. The study revealed that the adoptees had considerably lower levels of the hormone than those raised in families with lots of outward signs of love such as hugs.

As well as stimulating oxytocin, a hug can have a powerful effect on our physical wellbeing, whether it’s helping to lower blood pressure, your respiratory rate or relax your muscles. A hug can also help lower stress levels by reducing cortisol levels, which can in turn help improve sleep and support your immune system. One study, published in 2018, also proved that touch such as a hug, also has an analgesic effect, essentially working as a natural painkiller.

When it comes to the amount of hugs we should be aiming for to improve our wellbeing, experts take it as seriously as getting our 5-a-day. According to world famous family therapist Virginia Satir, we need four hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.