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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.
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