casal idoso de mãos dadas a dar um beijo

O estado do toque humano – Benefícios, barreiras e soluções

Estamos a tornar-nos numa sociedade sem contacto? Uma nova investigação global revela que o toque humano é a chave para uma vida feliz e realizada, mas o toque está em risco em todo o mundo.

”Nove em cada dez pessoas em todo o mundo sentem que o toque humano é a chave para uma vida feliz e realizada.”

O toque é o que nos faz humanos – a falta dele faz-nos sentir solitários

Todas as formas de toque humano são diferentes e algumas são mais desejáveis do que outras. Abraçar um amigo, beijar um parceiro na bochecha ou dar um mais cinco a um colega são preferíveis a esbarrar com um estranho, por exemplo. Apesar destas preferências variadas de toque físico, os resultados da investigação global mostram que o toque tem conotações extremamente positivas para a maioria das pessoas. As três principais associações que os entrevistados têm com o toque são amor (96%), afeição (96%) e cuidado (95%). A ideia de cuidar uns dos outros está intimamente ligada ao toque humano na mente das pessoas, e isto é consistente em todas as faixas etárias e regiões geográficas. Nove em cada dez pessoas em todo o mundo sentem que o toque humano é a chave para ter uma vida feliz e realizada. Hoje em dia, num mundo altamente polarizado de bolhas de filtro, discurso de ódio e hiperpartidarismo, é significativo que, independentemente da faixa etária, género ou país de origem, pessoas de todo o mundo concordem com esta afirmação.

Esta unidade também se reflete noutras medidas de toque: 87% concordam que o toque humano é uma parte essencial das comunidades e que a falta de toque humano pode fazer com que se sentam isolados e solitários, mesmo se estiverem rodeados de pessoas; 85% concordam que o toque é o que nos torna humanos; e 81 por cento acreditam que a falta de toque humano pode fazer-nos sentir mais facilmente stressados. Como investigadores, perguntamos-nos: a falta de toque humano é causada pelo nosso estilo de vida? E o toque mais humano pode ser um remédio contra os desenvolvimentos negativos dos tempos modernos?

“Já vi um homem a desatar a chorar no metro e ser ignorado – não quero fazer parte desta sociedade.”

Para dois terços da população, o toque não faz parte das suas vidas diárias

A nossa investigação descobriu que a maioria das pessoas não tem tanto toque quanto gostaria. Quando questionados especificamente sobre o tipo e a frequência do toque que experimentaram, 64% dos entrevistados indicaram que o toque não é uma ocorrência diária nas suas vidas e outros 72% expressaram o desejo de mais abraços. Quase um em cada cinco entrevistados não experimentou nenhum contato físico no dia anterior à entrevista. Além disso, as pessoas não estão insatisfeitas só com o nível de toque nas suas vidas pessoais, mas metade dos entrevistados percebe que o nível de toque na sociedade diminuiu nos últimos anos. Todas estas descobertas sugerem uma tendência crescente do que os especialistas chamam de “fome de toque” ou privação de toque – e alguns grupos são mais vulneráveis do que outros.

De acordo com os dados, as pessoas que vivem no hemisfério norte geralmente são mais privadas de toque do que as do hemisfério sul. Enquanto 17% dos entrevistados em geral indicaram não ter sido tocados no dia anterior à entrevista, este número foi maior em lugares como o Reino Unido (29%), Alemanha (28%) e França (21%). Por outro lado, foi menor em lugares como o Brasil (12%) e Índia (10%). Curiosamente, os países que mais experimentam o toque também parecem querer mais toque. Enquanto 72% dos entrevistados em geral indicaram o desejo de mais abraços, 82% dos indianos e 81% dos brasileiros desejavam mais, em comparação com 63% dos alemães e 64% dos britânicos. “Os dados mostram que as pessoas que vivem em culturas mais 'amigáveis ao toque', como a América do Sul, são mais propensas a reconhecer o valor do toque e a procurar mais toque nas suas vidas quotidianas”, disse a Dra. Natascha Haehling von Lanzenauer, investigadora do Happy Thinking People, um instituto de pesquisa independente que conduziu discussões em grupos de foco antes da pesquisa quantitativa.

Além das diferenças culturais, os dados também revelaram diferenças nas experiências de toque entre as várias faixas etárias. Não deveria ser uma surpresa que a geração do milénio com idades compreendidas entre os 20 e os 35 anos e aqueles com filhos nas suas famílias – independentemente do género – experimentem mais toques, com base nos diários de toque. Ao todo, 69% relataram que o toque de outras pessoas é uma parte comum e natural das suas vidas diárias e que recebem uma variedade de formas de toque de várias pessoas diferentes. Eles também eram significativamente mais propensos a abraçar alguém ou segurar a sua mão no dia anterior à entrevista. Sejam as formas tradicionais de toque físico, como abraços, mãos dadas ou carícias, ou formas de contacto baseadas na Internet, como conversar com alguém num chat por vídeo, esta faixa etária e os indivíduos com filhos beneficiam do toque diariamente e em abundância. No entanto, o mesmo não pode ser dito de todas as faixas etárias.

Com mais de 50 anos e privado de toque?

People aged 50–69 face unique challenges when it comes to touch. They are more likely than other age groups to live alone or in smaller households or face health problems that create barriers to touch. The rise of the “nuclear family” trend in recent decades, decline in marriage rates, and increased life expectancy around the world have made it increasingly likely that older adults live alone rather than with a partner or in multigenerational households. Across the board, people aged 50–69 reported fewer experiences with human touch in their daily lives compared to other age groups, including fewer hugs, brief strokes on the arm while talking, or opportunities to cuddle. Interestingly, despite experiencing less touch, this cohort doesn’t appear to necessarily desire more, with only 63 percent indicating a desire for more hugs, compared to 72 percent of respondents overall. “People seem to adjust their expectations about the amount of touch they experience in their daily lives based on their circumstances,” said Dr. Antje Gollnick of the research institute Mindline, which led the NIVEA study. “If they live alone or have health issues preventing frequent touch, they learn to desire less touch as a way to avoid disappointment.”

89%

acham que a falta de contacto humano pode fazer com que se sinta sozinho, mesmo que tenha muitos contactos nas redes sociais

82%

acham que o aumento de conexões virtuais diminui a habilidade de empatia

64%

têm vidas muito ocupadas; às vezes não demoram o tempo suficiente para se conectar com outras pessoas

53%

acham que passam muito tempo nas redes sociais; e que esse tempo falta para o contacto pessoal

Estilos de vida modernos e agitados estão a afastar-nos – e a distanciar-nos

The NIVEA human touch study has found that a number of trends are creating new and lasting barriers to human touch. We live in a society that is increasingly mobile, with more people than ever before choosing to move away from their families and the communities in which they were raised, whether due to geopolitical conflict or the pursuit of professional opportunities or personal enrichment. Innovations in personal technology and improved broadband Internet access around the world have made it possible to stay connected to loved ones and form new connections virtually rather than in person. And shifting social norms have raised questions about which types of touch are appropriate. The impact of these trends on the quality and frequency of human touch is reflected in the NIVEA research. Technology adoption, the nature of modern lifestyles, cultural and social norms, and personal insecurities were all cited as reasons why people don’t engage in more personal touch.

“É quase impossível encontrar-me com os meus amigos. Estão sempre todos tão ocupados hoje em dia.”

Conectados, mas desconectados: Geração Internet

The role that technology plays in our experience of human touch deserves a closer look. More than 80 percent of respondents to the NIVEA survey feel that more and more virtual connections diminish the skill of empathy, which leads to less touch. Other research has found that screens create not just physical, but also psychological distance, blurring the lines between reality and entertainment and desensitizing us to pain and the needs of others. Can screens also make it more difficult for us to read the emotions of others? Some studies suggest yes. A 2014 study by the University of California, Los Angeles, found that sixth graders who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, televisions, and computers.
In addition to our experiences using technology, how much time we spend using technology also matters. Altogether 53 percent of respondents said that time spent on social media was a barrier to physical touch, and this was particularly true in India (70 percent) and Thailand (69 percent) – countries where social media usage tends to be higher. A respondent in India told us: “When I come home from the big city two times a year, I long to see my family. But my little brother only sits at the table with his gadgets, not talking or even looking at me properly. That’s so sad!” The data also reveals significant differences in age groups when it comes to time spent online. The biggest difference is between millennials and those 50 and older; 65 percent of millennials reported that time spent on social media is a barrier to physical touch, while only 33 percent of those aged over 50 did.

Vidas ocupadas:
Uma corrida sem fim para fazer tudo

Our screens aren’t the only things standing in the way of more touch. The study findings also suggest that our busy lifestyles are contributing to our collective touch deprivation: 72 percent of respondents believe that the value of human touch is not top priority in modern life, with another 64 percent reporting being too busy to take time to connect with others. A respondent in China told us: “It is almost impossible to meet my friends. Everyone is so busy nowadays.”
This is especially true for millennials (72 percent) and parents (71 percent). Even though we have already established that these groups experience more touch compared to others, 76 percent of millennials and 78 percent of parents still wish that they could receive more hugs.
As a result of their busy, on-the-go lifestyles, these groups often have to rely on technology-enabled connections as a replacement for physical touch. In the touch diaries, 51 percent of millennials and 48 percent of parents reported that they had video called someone, ran their fingers over the screen, and wished that it was a real touch.

Social Norms: Widespread Confusion about the Right Level of Touch

In addition to technology usage and lack of time, eight in ten respondents believe that social norms can get in the way of human touch. In some countries, this is more of a factor than in others. It appears to be more of a barrier in Commonwealth countries, with 84 percent of Britons, 85 percent of Australians, and 84 percent of Indians reporting social norms as a barrier to touch, compared to 80 percent of respondents overall. Generally speaking, people in those countries touch each other less than people in southern Europe and South America, where, for example, a hug and kiss on the cheek are often considered an acceptable form of greeting. For many respondents, uncertainty about what type of touch is appropriate or whether the recipient would reciprocate prevents them from initiating touch. More than three-quarters of respondents reported that personal insecurities, such as being unsure if people would be comfortable receiving a hug, is a barrier. This figure is substantially higher – 85 percent – in China, India, and Thailand. Another 69 percent reported that they are open for touch, but they always wait for the other person to make the first move. These findings are especially pronounced in one group in particular: those who identify as men.
A total of 89 percent of men and 88 percent of women believe that human touch is key to living a happy, fulfilled life. Yet men face more personal insecurities around touch, with 76 percent of men indicating that they are often unsure how much physical contact is acceptable in society, compared to 71 percent of women. More men than women wish they could receive more hugs (73 percent compared to 70 percent). Furthermore, while they wish for more touch, they are actually experiencing less; 20 percent experienced no physical contact at all the day before the interview, compared to 14 percent of women.
Clearly, men long for more tactile connections in their everyday lives, but feel insecure about initiating and receiving physical touch. Men who place more emphasis on traditional gender roles or feel pressured by societal expectations may be less likely to engage in physical touch, fearing that it could be considered “feminine” or “soft.” Many are afraid to express their emotions or unable to articulate their needs. Others are afraid their touch will be interpreted as a sexual advance or that it will be rejected. Some fear to be affectionate with their children. A father in Germany told us, “I feel really uncomfortable when my 12-year-old daughter wants to sit on my lap in public. I don’t want anyone to think that I am a pedophile!”
Regardless of the reason, the consequence of these insecurities means that with the exception of handshakes, men are more likely than women to forego caring, platonic touch – and all the benefits that come with it.

Social Norms Can Get in the Way of Natural Human Touch

Global rates of approval:
“Social norms can get in the way of human touch.”

The Knowledge Gap: People Lack Awareness of the Physiological Benefits of Touch

While the psychological benefits tend to be well known, the NIVEA study reveals a knowledge gap in most people’s awareness of the physiological benefits of touch. When asked about their understanding of the physical benefits, including reduced physical pain, a stronger immune system, and lower blood pressure, among others, many participants in the global study reported being unaware of them. More than a third of respondents did not know that physical touch decreases the level of stress hormones and more than half did not know that touch strengthens the immune system. An overwhelming 86 percent of respondents find this information encouraging enough to include more physical touch in their daily lives – which raises the question: if people knew more about the benefits of touch, would they do more to initiate touch individually and collectively?
Our results suggest that the answer is yes. The findings clearly show demand for a more positive societal approach to the topic of human touch. A striking 92 percent of respondents think that we need to talk more about the benefits of human touch and 85 percent think it would be a good idea to have a movement that advocates the “good touch” in society. Such measures could help educate people on the benefits of touch, sort out the confusion on which types of touch are acceptable, and remind people to incorporate more touch into their lives. To help ensure that touch is valued beginning in childhood, 85 percent think that schools should teach the importance of human touch. This overwhelming support for solutions to the lack of human touch is consistent in all countries and age groups measured.
The barriers to human touch aren’t likely to disappear overnight, if ever. But some are more easily addressed than others, and awareness of our own actions is an important first step.

Sobre o estudo

A investigação NIVEA foi conduzida pela Mindline, um instituto de pesquisa independente, através de um questionário online com 11.198 pessoas dos 11 seguintes países (aproximadamente 1.000 entrevistados por país): Austrália, Brasil, China, França, Alemanha, Índia, Itália, África do Sul, Tailândia, Reino Unido e Estados Unidos. Os entrevistados tinham entre 16 e 69 anos de idade e eram uma amostra representativa com base no género, idade, região e situação ocupacional. O estudo foi realizado entre outubro de 2018 e março de 2019. Discussões de grupos de foco em 11 países, conduzidas pelo Happy Thinking People, um instituto de pesquisa independente, precederam a pesquisa quantitativa.

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