According to a new study published in Psychological Science, hugging can help protect us against colds by counteracting stress and boosting social support. Sheldon Cohen, a Professor of Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, led a team of researchers. They evaluated the social support of 404 healthy adults who were then intentionally exposed to a cold virus and monitored.
The results showed that perceived social support reduced the risk of infection associated with experiencing conflicts. Hugs were responsible for one-third of the protective effect of social support. Among infected participants, greater perceived social support and more frequent hugs both resulted in less severe illness symptoms whether or not they experienced conflicts.
“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,” Cohen said. “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.”
Cohen added, “Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection.”
(via PBS Newshour)