We’re Not Meant to Live Without Touch

Social isolation is prompting many to experience ‘skin hunger’

Jasmine Harding


Illustration courtesy of author

“I haven’t touched another human being in seven weeks,” my friend Sarah confessed to me. “I never thought I’d miss something as simple as a handshake from a stranger. Even brushing past people to get off the bus sounds like a luxury at this point.”

This is the first time in recent history that such a large population is experiencing touch deprivation. For those isolating alone, a complete lack of human touch adds an unprecedented mental strain to the stress of a global pandemic. As social isolation measures stretch into the future, it’s disconcerting to imagine what a future without touch might look like.

Sarah explained, “At least once a day, the feeling of wanting a simple hug overwhelms me. But I live alone, and I don’t think there is any safe way for me to get one.”

This feeling of longing is called “skin hunger,” or “touch hunger.”

Skin hunger refers to our desire for physical human contact. It is not necessarily a sexual need — but rather a need for meaningful, connective contact with another person. Skin hunger, of course, mounts as we experience a prolonged lack of human touch.