The findings of a recent study have given a whole new meaning to the term ‘hugs not drugs’.
If you’re a chronic cuddler, get a load of this: those regular hugs you love so much are not only putting a smile on your face, but they’re potentially protecting you from getting sick – especially if you’re stressed.
All the more reason to give your loved ones a little squeeze, huh?
A research team from Carnegie Mellon University wanted to determine whether hugs can serve as a form of social support, by protecting stressed people from falling ill.
Previous research has found that stress weakens the immune system, and that people are less capable of fighting off cold viruses when they're dealing with ongoing conflict with others.
They surveyed 404 healthy adults about how often they received hugs and whether they regularly experienced interpersonal conflicts. To test how this impacted on health, the participants were then exposed to a common cold virus and had their symptoms and infection monitored under quarantine.
The result? Perceived social support reduced the susceptibility to infection that comes with feeling stressed - and one third of this protective effect came from hugs. Moreover, regardless of whether or not they were experiencing social conflict, the infected participants who received more regular hugs presented less severe cold symptoms.
"This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress," study leader Sheldon Cohen says.
"The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioural indicator of support and intimacy."
So there you are. Go forth and use this information responsibly. If you need a visual:
Are you a frequent hugger? Or do you avoid hugs like the plague?