Whether we’re male or female or we identify as “huggers” or not, every type of person is experiencing a loss of human contact and touch during this time.
The pandemic has been a tough time for all of us, but there’s a difference between what introverts and extroverts are experiencing. The fact that people can’t see their friends and family as often as they’re used to is hard to cope with for a variety of reasons, one of the most basic ones being touch. According to a new study conducted on twins, “skin hunger” is real and there’s a genetic basis to it.
Social scientists from the University of Arizona have discovered that craving for human touch is influenced by the fact that we’re designed to be cared for by others. “Touch equals survival as infants. If we don’t have someone touching us and helping to meet our needs, then we don’t survive,” explains University of Arizona professor Kory Floyd. People who’ve spent the past couple of months alone and isolated, might be experiencing this skin hunger to different degrees.
“Many people these days are recognizing that they miss getting hugs, they miss touch, and it’s maybe the one thing technology hasn’t really figured out how to give us yet,” says Floyd.
The study examined the levels of affection people expressed to determine influences, whether they were genetic or environmental. There were marked differences between men and women, with women having more of a genetic influence and men’s response being determined more by their environment, a fact that surprised researchers.
The study looked into 464 pairs of adult twins, half identical and half fraternal, all between the ages of 19 and 84. This type of research is a great base for studying the differences between genetics and environment, since twins tend to be raised within the same household. There’s also the fact that identical twins share 100% of genetic material and fraternal twins share only 50%.
According to UA News, “The identical twin pairs scored more similarly than the fraternal twin pairs – at least in the case of women — suggesting that there is, in fact, a genetic component to affectionate behavior.” Researchers don’t know why affectionate behavior seems to be heritable in women but not men. However, Floyd notes that men, on average, tend to express less affection overall than women, as evidenced by previous research.
Whether we’re male or female or we identify as “huggers” or not, every type of person is experiencing a loss of human contact and touch during this time. This skin hunger is similar to regular hunger, and even though it may be more difficult to be attuned to it, it’s important to listen to your body and fulfill that need how you’re able. Pet a dog, cover yourself in weighted blanket, or create your quarantine social bubble with a friend or loved one. However you meet this need, it’s important to address the issue and to not let it fester.