Can hugs make you healthier?

Posted on February 11, 2015

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In 1991, CMU psychology professor Sheldon Cohen published a landmark study in the New England Journal of Medicine showing how stress can compromise our immune system and leave us more vulnerable to the common cold. Committed to finding practical ways of reducing both stress and illness, Cohen's later studies focused on the stress-relieving powers of what he calls "social support": a catch-all phrase for the caring, empathy and reassurance you receive from those around you.

In their most recent study, Cohen and colleagues used questionnaires to assess how socially supported each of their 406 study volunteers felt, and used daily telephone interviews to tally up the interpersonal conflicts that had happened that day. The researchers recorded one more thing that hadn't been studied before: the number of hugs each volunteer had received.

The study revealed some powerful effects of social support and hugs on participants' ability to fight off an infection. Both social support and hugs buffered the harmful effects of stress on participants' susceptibility to illness. That is, stressed-out people who got more social support and hugs were less likely to get sick than stressed-out people who got less support and fewer squeezes.

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Source material from Salon

Mental Health News