- Research shows that getting hugged by others, but also hugging yourself, may reduce stress hormones.
- Longer hugs are perceived as more pleasant than shorter hugs.
- Older people who at least occasionally get hugs tend to feel better about their health.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns and restrictions, one of the things many people missed most was getting hugged by their loved ones.
This led to an increased interest in the positive effects of hugging in the psychology research community and several studies published over the last year have yielded new insights on what it means to us to get hugged.
Here are four of the most interesting new insights into the science of hugging.
1. Getting hugged by others, but also hugging yourself, reduces stress hormones
A recent study by researcher Aljoscha Dreisoerner from the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, and his team focused on the positive effects of hugging on stress (Dreisoerner et al., 2021). Interestingly, the scientists not only investigated how getting hugged by other people could reduce stress, but also whether hugging yourself (e.g., when other people are not available during a lockdown) does also have a positive effect on stress. The scientists stressed 159 volunteers using the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), a standard stress induction method in which people are stressed by asking them to perform a fake job interview. Volunteers also gave saliva samples, so their cortisol (an important stress hormone) could be measured. Volunteers were assigned to three different conditions. They either were hugged for 20 seconds by an assistant of the scientists, hugged themselves for 20 seconds, or received no hugs and were asked to build a paper plane.
The results showed clearly that volunteers in both the hugging and the self-hugging condition showed lower cortisol levels than those in the control condition. Thus, getting hugged by other people, but also hugging oneself, reduces the negative effects of stress.
Editor’s Note: Read more, see link below for original item…