Why Hugs Positively Influence Our Mood?

Hugs can improve mood spoiled by conflict with other people. According to PLoS ONE, people who cuddled with others more often after they experienced a conflict situation had less bad mood and a positive mood was restored faster. At the same time, hugs with simply familiar people or relatives, and not just spouses or partners, helped.

The fact that touching other people can reduce stress has been repeatedly confirmed experimentally. If during artificially created stressful situations the participants in the experiment touched other people, their secretion of cortisol (a hormone that is produced in response to stress) decreased and the reactivity of the cardiovascular system in response to psycho-emotional stress decreased. However, in most of these written works, it was studied how the touch of spouses or partners affects people. Besides, only women participated in many studies.

Apparently, when constructing the experiment, scientists proceeded from the assumption that touching women is more beneficial than men. A few studies, in which both women and men participated, could neither confirm nor deny this hypothesis.

Hugs Study

American psychologists Michael Murphy and Sheldon Cohen from Carnegie Mellon University and Denise Janicki-Deverts from Pittsburgh University have decided to find out how hugs affect stress not only with spouses but also with other relatives or just with people you know. Besides, they wanted to understand whether the response to stress and touch depends on the sex of the subjects. 

Scientists invited 404 people to participate in the experiment: 217 men and 187 women aged 18-55 years. For 14 days, they called them every night and asked to describe their day, including how many people they talked to, how they felt during the day, whether they hugged with someone (not necessarily their spouse or partner) and whether they participated in conflicts. Based on the answers received, scientists evaluated the general mood of each participant in the experiment on a given day, as well as how conflicts and hugs influenced mood changes.

It turned out that in those days when the subjects participated in the conflict and hugged someone on the same day, their mood did not deteriorate as much (p = 0.005) as those who experienced the conflict and did not hug anyone. Moreover, the hugs made it possible to improve the bad mood of the participant in the conflict the next day (p <0.001). 

As the researchers found out, women were more likely to participate in conflicts, but at the same time, they were more often embraced than men. The gender and marital status of the subjects did not affect the relationship between the mood of the participants in the conflict and hugs.

“This study is still at an early stage. We still have questions about when, how, and to whom hugs help most. However, presumably a hug agreed with another person can help those who are forced to participate in the conflict, ” says Michael Murphy.

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