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Mental Health

Study: Women who hug their partner reduce their stress levels

Researchers say their findings suggest that hugging their romantic partner before a stressful event - such as an exam, job interview, or presentation - will help keep anxiety levels down for women.

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Pleased dark skinned young woman gives warm hug to her boyfriend, being pleased, pose near window, have romantic relationship, stand in cozy room. Husband and wife feel pleased and togetherness
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By Stephen Beech via SWNS

Women who hug their partner reduce their stress levels, reveals new research.

But hugging a lover does not have the same positive outcome for men, according to the study.

Researchers say their findings suggest that hugging their romantic partner before a stressful event - such as an exam, job interview, or presentation - will help keep anxiety levels down for women.

They discovered that women who embraced their other half before undergoing a stressful experience had a lower biological stress response - as indicated by levels of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva - compared to women who did not embrace their partner.

Study leader Gesa Berretz said: "As a woman, hugging your romantic partner can prevent the acute stress response of your body.

"In some settings, social touch may buffer against stress.

"Previous research has shown that massages, embraces combined with hand-holding, and embraces combined with affectionate communication can all reduce signs of stress in women."

"However, few studies have investigated these effects in men, nor have they explored the effects of brief embraces on their own."

To explore potential stress-reducing effects of embracing, Ms Berretz and her colleagues at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, conducted an analysis of 76 people in romantic relationships.

All the participants underwent a stress-inducing test in which they were asked to keep one hand in an ice-water bath for three minutes while being observed and maintaining eye contact with a camera.

Before the test, half of the couples were told to embrace, while the others didn't.

The researchers measured several indicators of stress - including the participants’ salivary cortisol levels, before and after the experiment.

Berretz, a PhD Student in the Department of Biopsychology at Ruhr University, said: "Statistical analysis revealed that women who embraced their partner had a lower cortisol response to the stress test than women who did not embrace their partner.

"However, for men, no associations were observed between embrace and stress-induced cortisol response.

"Other measures of stress including changes in blood pressure and emotional state did not show any associations with partner embrace.

"These results suggest that a brief embrace with a romantic partner might subsequently reduce the cortisol response for women facing stressful social situations, such as school exams, job interviews, or presentations."

She said further research could investigate whether the benefit of a hug extends to embraces with platonic friends.

via GIPHY

The team also call for research into related effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Berretz added: "Such investigations could explore whether social restrictions that reduced social touch may be associated with observed increases in stress and depression during the pandemic."

The findings were published in the journal PLoS One.

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