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Dr. Louise P. Kirsch                                                                                                     Mariana von Mohr

In this unique situation of pandemia, where most individuals experience social isolation, psychological distress and social pain are a common state. While previous work suggests that touch is essential to buffer feelings of social isolation and rejection, interpersonal touch experience has been affected due to social distancing policies to control the spread of COVID-19. Thus, we conducted an online study (N=1746) to: (i) examine touch experiences during COVID-19, their impact on mental health and the extent to which touch deprivation results in craving touch; and (ii) assess whether vicarious touch can reduce anxiety and feelings of loneliness. In this talk, we will present preliminary data highlighting on one hand that intimate touch deprivation during COVID-19 is associated with worse psychological well-being; and on another hand, that vicarious touch can reduce anxiety. These findings point towards the important role of touch, in times of social distancing and psychological distress.