The Therapeutic Nature of Loving Touch
Physical contact is so important to human beings that it is hardwired into our language, but these days we may be ‘out of touch’ with just how central a need this is. Here Mark Tyrrell takes a look at what the research says about touch – including one startling finding that lack of human touch can actually kill!
Science Studies Touch
The scientific study of touch began by accident back in the 1920’s when a researcher Fredrick Hammett removed certain vital glands from rats. To his amazement some of the rats survived the procedure. Even more surprisingly, most of the rats who survived came from a colony which had been regularly petted by their owners. These rats were less timid, apprehensive and highly strung than the less handled rats. The petted rats were six times more likely to survive the operation than non-handled rats.
In the 1940’s a doctor, Fritz Talbot, visited a children’s clinic in Dseldorf. The wards were neat and tidy, but something caught his attention. He noticed an old, rather plump woman carrying a sickly looking baby on her hip. He asked the medical director who this woman was. ‘Oh, she’s old Anna’, came the reply. ‘When we have exhausted all medical possibilities for a baby we give it to her to hold and stroke. She always seems to be successful!’
This observation and others led to big changes in the way some ‘foundling’ institutions were run. Bellevue hospital in New York instituted a new policy: every baby was to be picked up, held, touched, gentled and mothered several times a day. The death rate for infants plummeted to less than 10%. A vital human need had been discovered; touch.
Next, Premature Babies and Touch
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