Most Britons prefer a comfort hug. Reuters

Britons are expressing their emotions more often than before as people opt for "touch and smell" rather than texting to escape loneliness. According to a new study, people hug 13 times a day or once in almost every hour, with an average hug lasting 10 seconds.

David Beckham tops the list of celebrities whom women want to hug, and Holly Willoughby, the attractive blonde television presenter, is the favourite choice among men for a comfort hug.

The main reason for people wanting to be hugged was just for comfort, says the poll conducted on behalf of Nivea. People's reliance on remote communication by telephone or mobile texting is not enough to provide the emotional comfort one needs.

"We need physical contact - sight, sound, smell and touch - not just tapping keys. The reason people are hugging 13 times a day now is they miss that contact," The Telegraph quoted Linda Blair, an American clinical psychologist, as saying.

"Remember that humans spent a lot of time depending on others when they are little, more than any other animal. Babies recognise other people by smell before they can even see," she added.

The research pointed out that the women are more likely to ask for a hug than men when they are feeling down. It showed that 69 percent of the respondents prefer to hug their partners while a total of 14 percent hug their close friends. Another 9 percent like to hug their mothers.

However, many Britons remain reserved about public display of affection and consider it inappropriate. Britain's most popular hug was the slightly cautious "handshake and lean," in which only the non-shaking hand does any hugging, with the less inhibited "bear hug" only making it to the second place, says the survey.