Skin hunger is an actual physiological condition recognized by medical and psychiatric organizations. I hadn’t heard of it until a year or so ago. Here is a description from an article I copied, but don’t have the link to.
Essentially [skin hunger] is the adult version of failure-to-thrive syndrome. Early in [the 20th] century, social workers at city orphanages discovered that babies who received no physical contact -- cuddling, rocking, kisses, tickling -- beyond the bare minimum of daily maintenance became withdrawn, sickly, and finally died. The conclusion seemed to be that human beings require a certain level of daily skin-to-skin contact in order to survive.
Skin hunger is the condition that applies to later life. Older children and adults may have received adequate contact as babies but, for various reasons, no longer receive that same level of touch. They become isolated and defensive, suffer intense feelings of loneliness... ...They’re also hypersensitive to temperature changes because their blood circulation deteriorates; also, loss of tactile sensitivity is common.
In sedentary subjects, skin hunger also causes muscle damage, particularly in the shoulders and back, in theory because the subjects are always tensed in order to ward off either a harmful touch or rejection of their need.
Another fascinating description of skin hunger and how it is essential for human life to thrive, plus a look at some of the basic causes in modern life, is found HERE.
And you can read a woman’s personal experience with skin hunger HERE.
Extendicare has also released information about the condition, because it is a prevalent problem as people near end of life. I can understand this, from visiting the old age home my mother was a resident of during the final year of her life. As we near end of life our bodies often become broken, twisted and diseased. Even though we may love our elders dearly, it is often hard to bring ourselves to lovingly touch them. And I don’t mean a pat on the shoulder, or a rub on the back, or even just holding their hand, although all are good. I mean really lovingly touch them. Skin is our biggest organ. For health benefits, our skin needs attention all over. But we are often held back by a litany of fears.
That got me thinking about how, as a rule, we begin to withdraw from touching and being touched as we get older. There are many reasons for this. Too many to list here. But the point is, in general, that someone who is in their 60s or 70s (or older) will likely have far less touch in their life than someone in their 20s or 30s. Especially intimate touch, the kind that generates loving sexual energy in the body.
I can’t find any long term scientific studies that explore the effect of regular intimate touch on well-being and longevity (please send us a link if you know of one), but it would not surprise me to discover that constant access to loving touch is akin to a fountain of youth, or youthfulness.
For anyone who has experienced the various forms of therapeutic touch, there is no question they have a powerful, positive effect on us. We feel more relaxed and vital as a result. We experience the same enhanced vitality after shared, expectation-free, intimate touch, especially if it is not rushed, and even more especially if it ends in orgasmic bliss.
For me it is no surprise that human bodies in our modern, fragmented, touch-deprived cultures begin to rapidly deteriorate as we get older. We need to break down barriers and allow ourselves to touch each other more. Imagine if you were part of a community of people who were committed to giving you loving, honoring touch—to enlivening the big skin organ of your body—right to your passing from this life to the next. No skin hunger, ever. Extended vitality. That makes me smile. How about you?
Perhaps I'll let reknowned poet Stanley Kunitz have the final say on this, reading his final poem, "Touch Me".