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Hug for Health

Cuddling can help fight the common cold

Hugs can keep you healthy, according to a recent study. It turns out that a warm embrace, like the flu shot, can help boost your immune system.

For the study, researchers chatted up more than 400 adults on daily phone interviews, keeping tabs on participants’ social lives, stress levels and hug activities. After several weeks of phone interviews, the researchers quarantined study participants at hotels and exposed them to the common cold. Those who said they’d received daily hugs were significantly less likely to suffer from cold symptoms than those who kept loved ones at arm’s length.

Social support and physical contact are known stress busters, says study coauthor Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., a psychologist and stress expert at Carnegie Mellon University. And since stress lowers our body’s immune response, anything that reduces stress is good. In fact, Cohen’s study suggest that hugging may account for 32 percent of the immune system boost associated with social support.

Though the study didn’t look at specific types of hugs, a tight hug from a loved one might be more beneficial than a quick cuddle from a colleague. Here are more reasons to seek out a squeeze:

  • Research from the University of North Carolina shows that all human contact—from hand holding to hugging—lowers your heart rate. Several studies show a hug can lower blood pressure.
  • Other research shows hugs trigger the release of oxytocin, the hormone that promotes feelings of trust and well-being and reduces anxiety.
  • A study on fears revealed that hugging someone or something, even an inanimate object like a stuffed animal, reduced big worries about life and death.
  • An Ohio State study found that hugging reduces loneliness, particularly among the elderly.

There’s a poem that reads: “Stretch those arms without delay and give someone a hug today.” We agree.


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