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A Comparison of Hugging Frequency and Its Association with Momentary Mood Before and During COVID-19 Using Ecological Momentary Assessment

Publication year 2023
Published in Health communication
Authors J. Packheiser, Leslie Sommer, Maren Wüllner, Imke Marlene Malek, Jacqueline Sophia Reichart, Laura Katona, Maike Luhmann, Sebastian Ocklenburg

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a drastic decrease in human social interactions including social touch. One of the most prevalent forms of touch is hugging. Hugging has been demonstrated to benefit both physical and mental well-being. In the present study, we used an ecological momentary assessment approach to assess the relationship between hugging and momentary mood in two independent cohorts sampled prior or during the pandemic. We found that the frequency of hugging was significantly reduced during the pandemic. Using multilevel modeling, we found a significant positive association between momentary mood and daily hugs. This effect was moderated by the cohort, as individuals during the pandemic showed a stronger positive association compared to the cohort sampled prior to the pandemic. While we have to stress that our results are correlational in nature, they potentially indicate that social touch is more beneficial in times of social distancing.

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