Jane Bates: Let’s shake on it

Jane Bates considers healthy hand-holding.

Jane Bates considers healthy hand-holding

The humble handshake has been around at least since the ancient Greeks’ time as a greeting, a sign of mutual trust – no weapon concealed in that right hand? Good! It was a demonstration of respect and would seal deals. In churches, it is used as a token of peace and fellowship.

We also use it as a judge of character; the wet-haddock grasp, especially if warm and damp, tends to indicate a weak, slightly off-putting personality, while the bone-crusher makes you flinch, until the gripper realises that it is not a smile you are exhibiting but a rictus of pain. The linger-longer handshake is a particular dislike of mine: ‘Can I have my hand back please? It has been 20 minutes.’

Some wish to ban the handshake. This is understandable I guess when research shows that still only 38% of men and 60% of women wash their hands after visiting the lavatory. Makes you shudder, doesn’t it?

And talking of shuddering, there are still a surprising number of people still in touch with their inner-caveman, who sniff their fingers after shaking hands, a kind of atavistic response to the exchange of the body chemicals passed on by touch. Hmmmm.

For the past few years, the handshake has also found its place in diagnostics, and now a study suggests it might even give a better indication about morbidity and mortality than the measuring of blood pressure.

Those with a flaccid hold are thought to be of greater risk of cardiovascular disease, even early death. So when your doctor offers his or her hand at a consultation, it might be part of a general health assessment.

But if the medic themselves proves to be a haddock-hands, it puts you in a difficult situation. Do you tell them? I am not so sure.

About the author

Jane Bates

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire

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