Hugs can help our (physical) health

Getting a hug from a good friend or family member is comforting (for many of us), but it also turns out to have real, measurable health benefits, too.

According to Psych Central, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University already knew that people dealing with ongoing conflicts with others find it harder to fight off viruses and that people who have strong social connections experience less stress. They wanted to investigate whether good social support could protect people from getting physically ill as well.

So they recruited over 400 healthy adults for a study where they surveyed each person’s level of perceived social support, and then followed up with them for two weeks, asking them each day about the number of arguments and hugs they’d experienced. They were then exposed to the cold virus and monitored in quarantine.

The research team, led by psychologist Dr Sheldon Cohen, found a correlation between a reduced risk of infection and strong social support, with around a third of that protective benefit coming from hugs.
It’s not clear whether hugging triggers a specific immune-boosting physical response, or if it just makes us feel cared about, which reduces stress, which makes us less likely to get ill. But if you want to stay healthy, it looks like you should get hugging.

Image via Matthew G’s Flickr.

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Diane Shipley

One thought on “Hugs can help our (physical) health

  • Social support like this really does help with depression. For anyone
    suffering from depression, I recommend the
    Written by a former depression sufferer, it teaches 7 steps which help to eliminate depression from your life

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