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The power of touch can ease depression and anxiety

The idea that touch, when it’s wanted, can boost both physical and mental health is well-established. But the wealth of studies in this area has produced such an array of findings that it can be tricky to draw clear conclusions about just how beneficial touch can be, and which types of touch are most effective. In a new report, published recently in Nature Human Behaviour, Julian Packheiser and colleagues make a major attempt to address this. The team conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of more than 217 touch studies on a total of almost 13,000 people, mostly involving skin-to-skin ‘kangaroo care’ interventions for babies, and massage sessions for adults. The many notable results from their analysis could be used to improve touch interventions — and highlight areas where more research is needed.