Hugs are wonderful. They make you feel warm and fuzzy and safe and loved, and a new research study has found that they may actually have the ability to boost the immune system, therefore helping prevent colds and viruses.
For the study, researchers at Carnegie Mellon surveyed 404 adults about their interpersonal relationships, including how frequently they gave and received hugs from people most important in their lives. The researchers followed the study subjects for 14 consecutive days.It also can help with heart and lung function, depression and fatigue.
Next, they intentionally exposed the study subjects to the common cold virus, quarantined them and monitored for symptoms of illness.
The researchers found that people who felt they had a higher level of social support were less likely to end up sick, and those who reported getting more hugs stayed healthiest of all. They also found this group had less severe symptoms when they did get sick than those who didn't give and receive as many hugs.
"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," said Sheldon Cohen, a professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and lead author on the study.
Scientists say hugs may act as a safeguard because they help trigger the body's production of oxytocin, a hormone that's linked to sexual function and people's ability to bond physically with loved ones. This is why oxytocin is often referred to as the "cuddle hormone." During physical contact levels of cortisol -- the stress hormone -- also drops.
But this isn't the first research done on the healing power of hugs. There was a research study back in 2006 regarding touch and hugging for the help with pain. And who can forget the amazing story published in the Worchester Telegram & Gazette in 1995, Life Magazine in 1996, and Reader's Digest in 1996, about the preemie twins Kyrie and Brielle Jackson.
One of the most moving examples of the healing power of touch is a story that made the rounds via email about Kyrie and Brielle Jackson, preemie twins (pictured above) born in 1995. In the neonatal intensive care unit at The Medical Center of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, Kyrie (the larger of the 2, at 2 pounds 3 ounces) began to thrive, while her sister Brielle was not doing so well, with breathing and heart rate troubles. Then one day Brielle started gasping for breath, turned bluish-gray, and started hiccoughing (an indication that her little body was overly stressed). With her heart rate dangerously high, the nurse (Gayle Kasparian) tried everything to stabilize the baby, to no avail. Remembering an unorthodox treatment, rarely used in the U.S. but common in Europe, Kasparian decided to bed Brielle with her sister. As soon as she was placed in Kyrie's incubator, Brielle snuggled against her sister and immediately stabilized. Kyrie then placed her arm around Brielle, and we have the picture above. Both children are doing well.
And how touch and hugs helped transform Edie The Scared Dog.
So get out there and give someone a hug.