Quite simply, because it makes us feel good.
Research provides us with ample evidence that physical contact with others has a positive effect on our physical and mental health. Yet, we live in a culture that does not sanction touch simply for the sake of touch. We're afraid of touch. Studies have found that people in the United States touch openly less frequently and with less positive feeling than people in many other countries throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, Central and South America. Consequently, we tend to be more agitated and aggressive, both verbally and physically, than people from places where affectionate touch is open and normal.
OUR BRAINS, OUR BODIES
When we are engaged in touch, our brains produce more serotonin and oxytocin. Both of these chemicals make us calm and happy and contribute to an overall sense of well-being and relaxation that is pleasurable and healthy. Touch demonstrably stimulates regions of our brain that are known to produce pleasant, pleasurable feelings. Studies have also shown that touch reduces stress and anxiety for up to five days after it occurs. Stress and anxiety both aggravate numerous physical and mental health conditions.
Engaging in touch reduces the amount of cortisol we produce. Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone" which suppresses the immune system. This is why we tend to get sick more often when we are stressed. Touch can play an important role in reducing stress and strengthening our immune systems.
Touch can lower blood pressure. This can play an enormous role in the prevention and treatment of numerous health conditions. Additionally, going without touch for three days demonstrably increased stress and anxiety levels. Touch has actually proven to be more effective than verbal social support at reducing harmful effects of stress such as elevated blood pressure, cortisol levels, and heart rate. The research is clear. Humans need touch to thrive.