Lots of hugs may help us avoid the common cold
The tongue-in-cheek name of this publication might imply that we are already pro-hugging, but new research suggests that hugs may have preventative health benefits.
Affectionate physical contact, and the social support that comes with it, has previously been shown to make us feel good and reduce stress. We also know that being stressed out makes us more prone to getting sick. So, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University set out to see if people who hug frequently are more resistant to the common cold.
They also wanted to see if perceived social support—if people feel supported by their friends and families—is correlated with better resistance to infection.
The researchers surveyed 404 healthy adults about their frequency of hugs and about how much social support they feel in their lives. The participants were then deliberately exposed to the common cold virus, and monitored in quarantine.
Both participants who felt more social support and those who received frequent hugs experienced fewer cold symptoms.
Hugs themselves boost feel-good hormones, but at the same time they are indicators of close relationships. So, the benefits of not getting sick may not just be from the act of hugging, but also from the relationships with the people we hug. ”The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioral indicator of support and intimacy,” said lead researcher Sheldon Cohen.
Either way, it’s worth giving your loved ones an extra squeeze.