World Hugging Day (21 Jan) was thought up by a student called Kevin Zaborney in 1986.

Zaborney was trying to find new ways for people to express their feelings to their loved ones, and although World Hugging Day has yet to be added to the official United Nations calendar, several countries around the world have adopted the custom.

Research has shown that hugs can make a positive contribution to our physical and mental health.

Psychotherapist Virginia Satir argues we need up to 12 hugs a day to be happy.

Specifically, Satir said that a person needs four hugs to survive, eight to live well, and twelve hugs to be happy.

A study conducted by Harvard University found that it is the quality of our relationships with other people that makes us happy, not money, fame or beauty.

Another study involving children brought up in an orphanage discovered that groups who received a hug from their caregivers in three short daily meetings displayed better mental development and less susceptibility to diseases than children who didn’t.

Speaking to the state-run AMNA News Agency, psychiatrist and psychotherapist Iakovos Martidis, explained the importance of hugging for both children and adults.

When two people hug, Martidis explained, the body produces the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin reduces the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body and is associated with a feeling of calm.

When it comes to children and babies, he explained that youngsters don’t just want hugs, they need them.

Babies who don’t receive a hug from their parents when they need it feel helpless, insecure and lonely. What’s more, it could lead to them not trusting their own parents.

So depriving a baby or child of a hug could lead them to them feeling insecure, even as adults.