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Cuddle parties: the cure for loneliness for some

Physical touch has been shown to relieve stress and build emotional bonds, and organizations around the country are stepping up to fulfill that need. Cuddle parties aren't new, but they continue to gain popularity in an increasingly isolated society.
Emily Hales, Deseret News Modified: July 21, 2014 at 5:50 pm •  Published: July 22, 2014

As loneliness becomes a more recognized health risk in the United States, the need for human contact and community has led to the creation of "cuddle parties."

But law enforcement suspect that cuddling can be used as a front for illegal sexual activity. And others object to the trend on grounds that physical affection should be saved for those you already have an emotional bond with and that cuddling strangers makes physical touch less meaningful.

Recent studies have reported on the danger of being isolated, including a study by the Department of Public Health at University College London, which found that people over age 52 who experienced social isolation were 48 percent more likely to die over the course of the study, all other factors being equal, The Telegraph reported.

Thirty-five percent of Americans over the age of 45 are lonely, according to a report by the AARP. An article in Forbes discussed the growing problem of loneliness among millennials, who are working more independently and prioritizing personal success over relationships.

Just as loneliness and isolation have a negative effect on human health, physical contact has a healing effect. "Stimulating touch receptors under the skin can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, effectively reducing stress," Matthew Hertenstein, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University, told Huffington Post.

One phenomenon that has arisen to combat loneliness is the cuddle party, promoted by a "federally recognized nonprofit educational organization" that is designed to create a fun social experience and teach people how to get the most out of cuddling, according to the Cuddle Party website. Trained facilitators host events around the United States and Canada. Other, similar organizations have opened in the United Kingdom and Sweden.

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