Do hugs have health benefits? The answer is a resounding YES! Hugs can reduce stress, relieve depression, anxiety, and cold symptoms, lower blood pressure and inflammation and increase our tolerance to pain and our immune system.
Everyone loves to hug to feel loved and safe. But did you know that hugs have other benefits and that it is good to hug as often as we can?
Hugs reduce stress, relieve depression and anxiety
During the embrace, the body releases oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates attachment in relationships. When we hug, a relaxation takes place, a decrease in heart rate and stress hormone levels, cortisol and noradrenaline. The hugs have a calming effect because oxytocin increases the levels of well-being hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.
A study by the University of Ohio State found that when animals in shelters were treated with a pharmacological agent that inhibits oxytocin, they showed an increase in depressive behavior.
Hugs lower blood pressure and inflammation
Research from North Carolina University showed that premenopausal women, who received more frequent hugs from their partners, had lower blood pressure levels than those who did not benefit from this gesture. Other studies in animals have shown that oxytocin diminishes inflammation as a result of acute stroke and cardiac arrest.
Hugs increase immunity, tolerance to pain, and relieve cold symptoms
In another study, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in the US analyzed the effects of social support and hugs on the risk of contracting a cold. Those who felt greater social support had a lower risk of 32% to get a cold. Some subjects were getting the hugs “treatment,” and did also catch a cold, but their symptoms were less severe.
Oxytocin released during hugs can improve the immune function and tolerance to pain. Other research had shown that oxytocin has analgesic effects, resulting in a reduction in the intensity of perceived pain when participants were subjected to impulses generated by an infrared laser.