“Skin hunger” is a neurological phenomenon that urges for human touch. During the ongoing lockdown, many have faced the desperate need for human touch while a few others have been unable to put their finger on the lack.
Neuroscientist Dr Katalin Gothard explained how touch is important is daily lives. “Social touch stimulates the release of opioids and oxytocin in the brain,” explained Gothard. Without touch, the brain produces less oxytocin and high levels of stress are observed.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the phenomenon of “touch starvation” has become a reality to many, almost like a physical presence.
Research studies have explained how without human touch, people can experience serious mental and physical deterioration. Alberto Gallace, neuroscientist, University of Milano-Bicocca explains: “Nature designed this sensory modality to increase our feelings of wellbeing in social environments. It’s only present in social animals that need to be together to optimise their chances of survival.” Loss of human touch is detrimental for one’s overall wellbeing.
Many have experience a deep sense of grief resulting from skin hunger. The lack of human touch cannot be ever supplanted or provided by technology.
We can maintain our social relationships through technology,” says Gallace. “But although our technology is very advanced in terms of visual and audio rendering, all these technologies lack the sense of touch. There are basically no systems currently available that allow us to interact using touch.”
The lockdown has seen people reaching out to other people in an unprecedented manner. As social apps have subsequently seen spike in new user login, they are unlikely to bridge the tingling sensation of pain left by the unavailability of human touch.