How Hugs are Proven to Help Your Health: Have You Been Hugged Today?
Hugs certainly feel good, both on the giving and receiving
end, and it turns out their effects are more than skin deep.
A study by University of North Carolina researchers found
that hugs increase the "bonding" hormone oxytocin
and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Hugs are good for your heart, they lower blood pressure,
and reduce stress, so make it a point to hug someone
In fact, when couples hugged for 20 seconds, their levels
of oxytocin, released during childbirth and breastfeeding,
increased. Those in loving relationships had the highest increases.
Meanwhile, levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased
in women, as did their blood pressure. Said lead researcher
and psychologist Dr. Karen Grewen, "Greater partner support
is linked to higher oxytocin levels for both men and women.
However, the importance of oxytocin and its potentially cardioprotective
effects may be greater for women."
Hugging for Your Heart
"Scientists are increasingly interested in the possibility
that positive emotions can be good for your health. This study
has reinforced research findings that support from a partner,
in this case a hug from a loved one, can have beneficial effects
on heart health," said Dr. Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson
for the British Heart Foundation.
Indeed, a previous study, also led by Grewen, found that
hugging and handholding reduces the effects of stress. Two
groups of couples were asked to talk about an angry event,
but one group had previously held hands and hugged, while
the others sat alone. It was found that:
Blood pressure increased significantly more among the
no-contact group as compared to the huggers.
Heart rate among those without contact increased 10 beats
a minute, compared to five beats a minute for huggers.
What's more, Grewen suggests that warm contact such as hugs
and hand-holding before the start of a rough day "could
carry over and protect you throughout the day."
Benefits of Touch Start Early
A hearty hug in the morning may help your loved one
ward off stress all day.
Humans are clearly social animals, as evidenced by countless
studies showing that those
who have friends are healthier, as are people
who are married.
We need social contact, and that includes touch, even beyond
a couple's capacity. Take, for example, the fact that babies
benefit from skin-to-skin contact with their mother with better
physical development and positive bonding.
A telling example was a study of Korean infants in an orphanage.
Those who received an extra 15 minutes of a female voice,
massage and eye-to-eye contact, five days a week for four
weeks, gained more weight and had greater increases in body
length and head circumferences after the four weeks and at
6 months of age than children without the extra stimulation.
Therapeutic touch has also been shown to reduce stress and
pain among adults, and reduces symptoms of Alzheimer's disease,
such as restlessness, pacing, vocalization, searching and
Time to Get, and Give, More Hugs
"U.S. couples aren't very touchy feely in public,"
says Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute at the
University of Miami Medical School. This is a shame as touch
also releases two feel-good brain chemicals, serotonin and
Yet, according to Field's studies of U.S. and Parisian cafes,
French couples spend three times more time touching than American
So what are we waiting for? Grab your partner, friend or
family member and give them a hug today. And if you're really
feeling bold, check out the first link below and treat your
significant other to a special treat tonight.
Amazing Benefits of Massage and Different Types of Massage
to Drop the Drama and Master the Art of Loving Simply in Seven
Medicine 2005 Jul-Aug;67(4):531-8
News: How Hugs Can Aid Women's Hearts
Today: Hugs Warm the Heart, and May Protect It
The Health Benefits of Physical Touch