Decreased self-reported receiving of social touch and social support predict loneliness in healthy adults

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Abstract

Loneliness has emerged as a public health concern. Previous research has reported its deleterious effects on physical and mental health; however, some specific psychophysiological mechanisms in healthy adults remain to be elucidated. The aim of the current study is to investigate whether self-reported social support and social touch (giving and receiving social touch), as well as resting heart rate variability (HRV), are significant negative predictors of loneliness in healthy adults. The study sample consists of 120 healthy students (50% female) with a mean age of 21.85 years old (DP= 2.21). The students were asked to complete a psychiatric screening questionnaire utilizing loneliness, social support, and social touch scales. HRV was derived from an electrocardiographic signal recorded for 15 min, with the participant relaxed in a supine position. Linear regression analyses were conducted to evaluate loneliness as a function of social support, social touch (giving or receiving touch), and resting HRV. The results show that social support (p< 0.001) and social touch, specifically receiving touch (p< 0.002), accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in loneliness. However, neither giving touch nor resting HRV was a significant predictor of loneliness. The current study highlights specific psychosocial factors in healthy adults that should be considered as promising pathways in order to reduce or work toward preventing loneliness, thus promoting better health and well-being.

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Araújo, C. R. V., Mota, B. E. F., Campagnoli, R. R., Rocha-Rego, V., Volchan, E., & Souza, G. G. L. (2022). Decreased self-reported receiving of social touch and social support predict loneliness in healthy adults. Psicologia: Reflexao e Critica, 35(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41155-022-00228-w

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