In the early 1900s ninety to ninety-nine percent of babies who were put in certain orphanages in the United States and Europe died within the first year. This happened despite being on an adequate diet and receiving professional medical attention. These babies were not suffering from any known disease, but were simply “wasting away.”
Of the few babies who did survive their first year in an orphanage, all had extremely stunted growth, mental and physical retardation. When these orphanages were investigated it was found that the largest single reason for the above statistics was lack of touch. They didn’t get enough personal attention due to inadequate staffing; attendants barely had enough time to clean and feed the infants and plop them back into their solitary cribs.
When extra help was added so there were enough attendants for each baby to be touched, held, handled, talked to, and played with every day, infant mortality rates plummeted. Not only did more babies survive, but the ones who did survive had normal growth in weight, height, energy, and mental acuity. Without caring touch, no amount of food and no kind of medicine can produce a healthy and happy individual.
Therapeutic massage is much more than merely touch, but touch itself does have therapeutic benefits as this story from history illustrates.