The surprising perks of affective touch

Mom holding baby

You know that warm, fuzzy sensation that you feel when a loved one pats your back or holds your hand? Among scientists, that feeling is known as the affective touch response and it’s unique to social mammals.

Affective touch refers to a specific form of slow, light physical contact that our brains are pre-wired to find soothing. When your skin is touched in this way, specialized receptors send a “calm down” signal to your brain, helping you feel safe and relaxed.

Couple on beach

Most of us know, from experience, that certain forms of physical contact can be comforting. Now, researchers are finding that the benefits of touch extend beyond that fleeting fuzzy feeling.

5 benefits of affective touch

1. Reduced stress: Affective touch activates a skin-to-brain pathway that helps you cope with stress. In addition to this immediate relief, regular physical contact can boost your resilience to stress in the future.

2. A sense of belonging: Touch strengthens social bonds among family members and close friends. Further, one study found that affective touch reduced feelings of social exclusion when subjects were left out of a game.

3. An enhanced immune system: Frequent hugs can reduce your susceptibility to the common cold.

4. Improved heart health: Regularly hugging your romantic partner can lead to a healthy drop in heart rate and blood pressure.

5. Pain relief: Multiple studies have shown that simply holding hands with a loved one can reduce feelings of physical pain.

Affective touch in a convenient wearable


Cove was designed to give users the benefits of affective touch, without taking any time out of their day. The device uses carefully-calibrated vibrations, applied behind the ears, to trigger the brain’s affective touch response and, in doing so, enhance mental wellness. Scientists have found that Cove users experience 41% less stress and 50% better sleep after using the device daily for one month.