What would you do if the government told you not to hug your loved ones because doing so risks spreading the coronavirus? You could put on your mask or face shield and latex gloves, grab a bottle of Lysol, and insist they remain at least six feet away. Or you could throw caution to the wind and hug them anyway. If you think those choices are far-fetched, you’d be wrong. Citizens of the United Kingdom were told to avoid hugs by Nigel Huddleston, the minister for tourism and sport.
During an interview with BBC Breakfast, Huddleston said, “Despite the temptation, please don’t risk the health of your loved ones by actually hugging them.” And that’s not all. He also suggested people do their duty as tattletales and intervene if they witness such bad behavior. “If you see someone behaving in an odd way then call them out on it,” he instructed. Since when did human interaction become “odd”?
It reminds me of the 1986 song “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by the Georgia Satellites:
“Always no huggee no kissee until I get a weddin’ ring
My honey my baby don’t put my love upon no shelf
She said don’t give me no lies and keep your hands to yourself”
Replace the wedding ring part with the government, and you get “no huggee no kissee until the government tells you so.” All fun aside, this is very concerning. Human beings are social creatures who thrive on emotional and physical contact. We have already been isolated from family and friends due to COVID restrictions, and whatever little interaction we can still manage is essential to our mental health and well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40% of adults reported suffering from depression or substance abuse last year:
“During June 24-30, 2020, U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.”
Although many people are not fans of the CDC because of its constant flip-flopping on what is or isn’t necessary during this pandemic, it did get one thing right:
“The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been associated with mental health challenges related to the morbidity and mortality caused by the disease and to mitigation activities, including the impact of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.”
How important is touch to human beings? Well, according to Healthline.com, it is very important. It can also help the immune system – something that should be of importance during the COVID pandemic, don’t you think? According to the site, when a person feels under pressure or stressed, the body releases the cortisol hormone and physical touch can reduce “such stress, allowing the immune system to work the way it should.”
Touch is also attributed to calming heart rate and blood pressure, and in the developing childhood years, it helps children to build healthy relationships. What does this say for all the children being forced into online education, away from their teachers and peers? Are we raising a generation of soon-to-be social outcasts?
There is such a thing as “touch starved,” which means exactly as the term suggests. Suffering this means one would feel “overwhelmingly lonely or deprived of affection.” There are other symptoms as well, such as:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low relationship satisfaction
- A tendency to avoid secure attachments
According to Healthline, “Any and all positive touch is considered to be beneficial. Losing out on workplace handshakes, friendly hugs, or pats on the back can result in feelings of touch starvation.” Yet, fear — and politicians — are keeping people away from each other, making us mask up and social distance as if everyone has big bad cooties.
Still, we have leaders, such as the U.K.’s Huddleston, telling us to stay away from others and not hug our loved ones. Touch is an important part of our survival. It helps produce happy hormones to combat depression, lower blood pressure, and stimulate the immune system to help fight off things such as the coronavirus. And, as Healthline observed:
“Plus, it tackles loneliness. Even gentle touch from a stranger has been shown to reduce feelings of social exclusion.”
Read more from Kelli Ballard.