A hug, besides making you feel loved, warm and fuzzy, can have therapeutic benefits as well. It can help boost your immunity and fight off stress, say researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University. Some more social support from the people around and some hugs, they suggest, can help those prone to infections related to stress get over their problems.
“We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses. We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety,” said Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University professor of psychology at CMU.
Cohen and his team chose to “study hugging as an example of social support because hugs are typically a marker of having a more intimate and close relationship with another person.”
“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. Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat protected from infection and illness-related symptoms,” said Cohen.
The study was aimed at finding out how much protection social support provides against stress and vulnerability of an individual to diseases like flu and colds.
“The study suggests that people who have relationships that are intimate enough that they’re getting hugged are protected, and that hugging is one indicator of that,” Cohen said in an interview.
However, it is not as simple as it sounds. The team of researchers studied the number of hugs and the level of interaction people experienced over a period of two weeks before they were exposed to viruses. The average person in the study said he or she received at least one hug on 68 percent of the 14 days. Only 20 percent of them were married.
Further, the team also mentioned that their study and its findings hold good for those under chronic stress (like perhaps grappling with the death of a loved one or a bad marriage) and not those facing short term stress.
If you are looking for more reasons to go and wrap your arms around loved ones, let us remind you that hugs also help fight feelings of loneliness, fight gloom and lower blood pressure!
The findings of the research were first published in the journal Psychological Science.