Why Humans Thrive on Physical Intimacy

A laughing, happy couple sits on the couch and touches each other before sex

Humans aren’t whole without touch

Key takeaways:

  • Physical intimacy unites partners in a close relationship and plays a vital role in its success.

  • A healthy marriage or committed relationship is sustained by living out the commitment to one another to engage in physical forms of touch such as kissing, hugging, and sex.

  • Research studies back the emotional and physiological benefits of physical touch between two people, whether romantic or platonic.

  • Non-sexual touch plays an important part in intimate relationships. It can be helpful for stress relief and relaxation.

Simple gestures like holding hands with your spouse while watching a movie or kissing your partner when you get home from the office can have lasting health and wellness benefits. Research shows that physical touch is an important factor in providing intimacy in our lives. Being touched by another human being helps us feel understood, accepted and cared for, and strongly influences our physical and emotional well-being. We discuss some of the science behind physical intimacy, whether romantic or platonic, and why it’s so important for everyone.

The definition of physical intimacy

Physical intimacy is characterized by friendship, platonic or romantic love, or sexual activity. It actually makes communication and connection easier. In romantic relationships, attraction is a key ingredient for physical intimacy.

Being that it is a natural part of human sexuality, most people desire physical intimacy of some sort at least occasionally. Between partners, it usually involves sensual touch and requires entrance into another person’s personal space. Examples include everything from brief hand-holding to a hug, kiss, or sex.

The benefits of touching and physical interaction

Scientific research confirms how physical touch influences people. Its benefits include:

  • Intimate or sensual touching aids in the release of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, which reduce stress.

  • Decreases feelings of loneliness or sadness. Physical touch increases positive emotions, including feelings of contentment, relaxation, alertness.

  • It promotes greater trust between individuals. Physical touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion. Our skin contains receptors that draw out