Touch Deprivation and Exercise During the COVID-19 Lockdown April 2020

Main Article Content

Tiffany Field Samantha Poling Shantay Mines Debra Bendell Connie Veazey


Background: Touch deprivation has rarely been studied except in wartime nurseries and in very few orphanages in the world. Pandemics like COVID-19 are susceptible to touch deprivation at least for those living alone and to a lesser degree for friends social distancing in public places.

Methods: A Survey Monkey study was conducted during April 2020. Respondents (N=260 individuals >18 years) completed several COVID-related stress scales.

Results: Sixty per cent of the sample reported experiencing low to high levels of touch deprivation. Correlation analyses suggested that touch deprivation was more prevalent in individuals living alone and was negatively related to health practices scale scores and positively related to scores on scales measuring COVID-related stress, negative mood states including anxiety and depression, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Analyses of variance revealed significant differences between touch-deprived and non-touch deprived groups on these measures. Outside exercise was studied as a potential buffer to touch deprivation inasmuch as touching and exercise have been noted to have similar effects on mood states and physical health. Correlation analyses suggested that outside exercise was positively related to health practices and negatively related to COVID-related stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep disturbances and PTSD symptoms.

Discussion: These data suggest the widespread prevalence of touch deprivation during COVID-19 lockdown and its relationship to negative mood states and sleep disturbances. Exercise was noted to decrease these problems as it has in previous non-COVID research.

Conclusion: Exercise can reduce touch deprivation related problems during pandemics like COVID-19.

Keywords: touch deprivation, depression, sleep disturbances, exercise, COVID-19 lockdown

Article Details

How to Cite
FIELD, Tiffany et al. Touch Deprivation and Exercise During the COVID-19 Lockdown April 2020. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 8, n. 8, aug. 2020. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 16 june 2024. doi:
Research Articles


1. Field, T. Touch. 2014;MIT Press: Boston.
2. Elizarraras-Rivas, J., Vargas-Mendoza, J. E., Mayoral-Gracia, M., Matadamas-Zarate, C., Elizarraras-Cruz, A., Taylor, M., & Agho, K. Psychological response of family members of patients hospitalized for Influenza A/H1N1 in Oaxaca, Mexico, BMC Psychiatry. 2010;10: 104-123.
3. Wu, K. & Weo, X. Analysis of psychological and sleep status and exercise rehab of frontline clinical staff in the fight against Covid 19 in China. Med Sci Monit Basic Res. 2020; 26: e924085 DOI: 10.12659/MSMBR.924085
4. Grewen, K.M., Anderson, B.J., Girdler, S.S., & Light,K.C., Nonverbal encouragement of participation in a course: The effect of touching. Social Psychology of Education. 2010;7:89–98.
5. Field, T. Social Touch, CT Touch and Massage Therapy. Developmental Review.2019; 51:123-145.
6. Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Turner, R.B., & Doyle, W.J. Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness. Psychological Science. 2010; 26:135-147.
7. Field, T., Diego, M., Medina, L., Delgado, J., & Hernandez, A. Yoga and Massage Therapy Reduce Prenatal Depression and Prematurity. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2012; 16: 204-209.
8. Diego, M. & Field, T. Moderate Pressure Massage Elicits a Parasympathetic Nervous System Response. International Journal of Neuroscience. 2009;119: 630-638.
9. Ironson, G., Field, T., Scafidi, F., Hashimoto, M., Kumar, M., Kumar, A., Price, A., Goncalves, A., Burman, I., Tetenman, C., Patarca, R. & Fletcher, M.A. Massage Therapy is Associated With Enhancement of the Immune System's Cytotoxic Capacity. International Journal of Neuroscience. 1996; 84: 205-217.
10. Dewitt, B., Feeny, D., Fischhoff, B., Celia, D., Hays, R.D. et al. Estimation of a preference-based summary score for the patient reported outcomes measurement information system: The PROMIS-preference (PROPr) scoring system. Medical Decision Making. 2018: 38: 683-698.
11. Hansen, M., Anderson, T. E., Armour, C., Elklit, A., Palic,S., & Mackrill, T. PTSD-8: A short PTSD inventory. Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health. 2010; 6:101- 108.
12. Zhang,S., Zou,L., Chen, L., Yao, Y., Loprinzi, P., Siuand, P., & Wei, G., Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, The effect of Tai Chi Chuan on negative emotions in non-clinical populations. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 2019; 16: 3033;
13. Aizenstein, H. Reynolds III, Butters, M. Grove, G. Karp, J., & Erickson, K. Exercise for depression: a feasibility trial exploring neural mechanisms. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2019; 6: 611–616. doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2019.01.012.
14. Clarke, S., Cooper, U., Rana, M. & Mackintosh, B. Cognitive interpretation bias: The effect of a single session moderate exercise protocol on anxiety and depression. Front. Psychol., 2018,
15. Zeng, N.; Pope, Z.; Lee, J.E.; & Gao, Z. Virtual Reality Exercise for Anxiety and Depression: A Preliminary Review of Current Research in an Emerging Field. J. Clin. Med. 2018; 7: 42.
16. Said CM, Batchelor F, &Duque G, Physical activity and exercise for older people during and after the COVID-19 pandemic: A path to recovery, Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.2020, doi:
17. Dixit, S. Can moderate intensity aerobic exercise be an effective and valuable therapy in preventing and controlling the pandemic of Covid – 19? Medical Hypotheses, 2020; 143: 109854.
18. Kandola, A. Vancampfort, D., Herring, M., Rebar, A. Hallgren. M. Firth, J. & Stubbs, B. Moving to the anxiety: epidemiology and therapeutic issues with physical activity for anxiety. Current Psychiatry Reports.2018; 20: 63
19. Banno, M., Harada, Y. Taniguchi., M., Tobita, R. , Tsujimoto, H. , Tsujimot, Y., Kataoka, Y. & Banno, N. et al. Exercise can improve sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PeerJ, 2018; 6: 5172; DOI 10.7717/peerj.5172
20. Field, T., Mines, S., Poling, S., Bendell, D. & Veazey, C. Being younger and living alone negatively affects mood states and sleep during a Covid–19 lockdown 2020, in preparation.

Most read articles by the same author(s)