Touch starvation has indirectly led to 65% growth of sexual wellness category: Isobar study

Human Touch-Me-Nots report analyses how lack of physical touch can affect businesses and society

Jul 21, 2021 07:00:00 AM | Article | Campaign India Team Share - Share to Facebook

Isobar, Dentsu India’s digital agency’ has released a new report – Human Touch-Me-Nots – that dives deeper into the phenomenon of ‘touch starvation’, the condition resulting from lack of physical touch.
The 2020 lockdown in India saw people unable to express themselves in the most basic forms of touch – hugging, holding hands, pats on the back, no name a few – as a result of social distancing, working from home and isolation. The report introduces the concept of touch starvation and analyses its impact on subsections of society as it moves into an era of isolation. 
Commenting on the report, Rahul Vengalil, chief business officer, Isobar, said, ”We are invested in understanding cultural trends and people’s opinions that are continuously shaping human behaviour. Touch starvation is a major part of our lives now. While this trend slowly started picking up even before the pandemic, it is all the more prevalent and relevant today. Our effort is to understand how this affects us and create opportunities for businesses and provide the right experience for the consumers.” 
Added Mamtah Sabhrwal, director – brand strategy, Isobar India, “We are in a state of flux and there are many studies on the shift in human behaviour and culture. Hence, it was imperative to pick a subject that analyses the root cause of the changes we are going through. We then carefully and consciously identified touch starvation as it has impacted people’s lives particularly a few segments without ever getting noticed. And there is a lack of general awareness and empirical data which reflects how common conditions like mood swings can be a direct implication of the same. With this white paper, we aim to uncover where are we now and what comes next due to this skin hunger.”
Key highlights:
  • Psychological and physiological impact: Contrary to an obvious indication that touch starvation leads to loneliness and mental unrest, it impacts our digestive and immune systems which are people’s highest priority today. 
  • People with disabilities: 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. India is home to nearly 150 million physically challenged people with the pandemic making it harder for them to access critical medical supplies. According to WHO, people with disorders like Down’s syndrome are more vulnerable to Covid-19. People with visual impairment find little to no support in the outer world anymore, which is essential for their survival.
  • Changes in infants: India topped the world with estimated 20.1 million births anticipated in 2020 during the pandemic. Infants’ immune systems might not develop as required on a physical front due to no contact with the outside world (as substantial brain activity takes place with touch for them). These changes in the open-door policies are changing the upbringing and family equations completely for Indian infants today.
  • Imitating touch: Replicating touch is the most crucial aspect to fight touch starvation. Some of the common practices are long rubs, warm showers, wrapping in blankets, etc. Simple steps like these lead to a 33% and 63% decrease in stress and anxiety, respectively.
  • New meanings and growth: 65% growth witnessed in the sexual wellness category – an indirect craving of touch starvation – poses a larger question: Will Indian society become more bearable to sex and pleasure-related products and services? Retail will have to consider elevated anxiety from consumers in terms of infrastructure, hygiene and product experiences. Changing expectations of products from ‘aesthetics’ to ‘feel’ will eventually change key drivers for purchase. Products with the right feel will unlock the rise of touch elevation categories like furnishing, home décor, fragrances, self-care, etc. 
  • The new normal: A 60% increase in messages sent on dating apps, coupled with a 39% increase in the average length of conversations and an addition of 140% subscribers is the reflection of a craving for a partner. There is a 35% to 40 % increase in people admitting to a mental health crisis in their lives (a considerable amount is due to touch starvation). This has flourished mental health industry and players like Therapize who gained over 15,000 organic followers in merely four months. Pet adoption, too, has gained popularity during the pandemic.
  • Nostalgia and familiarity: Resorting to different senses from the past relieves people of their anxieties and stresses. The familiarity of touch will elevate industries like beauty and wellness in the coming future.