8 Benefits of Hugs According to Science
Have you ever thought about the benefits of hugs? Surely when you hug someone or receive a hug from someone, it makes you feel happy and, in some cases, liberated. The truth of the matter is that the benefits of this beautiful, warm act go far beyond this, and science has backed it up. Find out more here!
What is a hug? It’s an expression that can symbolize many things depending on the person who provides it. It can show safety, protection, love, or support. Depending on the situation, it can also transmit many other feelings and even alleviate sadness in those who receive them.
The 8 benefits of hugs according to science
We’re now going to tell you all about the main benefits of hugs, which will mean that every time you give someone a hug, you’ll be clearer about everything you’re transmitting to the other person. And this isn’t all, when you hug someone, you receive benefits as well.
1. Reducing stress
According to a scientific study, providing support through touch reduces stress in the person who is receiving comfort and in the person who provides it. This trial sampled 20 couples, whose men were subjected to electric shocks that were intended to produce an unpleasant sensation, while their partners took them by the arm at the same time.
What this test concluded is that, in the women, there was a reduction in activity in certain areas of the brain that are associated with stress, while those associated with maternal rewards had greater activity.
This means that hugging someone to show support can achieve the same results.
2. Controlling blood pressure
It’s official – hugs help us lower blood pressure levels and heart rate. A scientific study proved it through the following test. The exercise included a sample of 366 adults who had a romantic relationship and who were divided into two groups.
One group had to hold hands for 10 minutes and hug each other for 20 seconds before undergoing public speaking, a stressful activity. The other group just sat next to their partners in total silence during this same time.
The results concluded that the couples who hugged decreased their blood pressure and heart rate levels, compared to the group that didn’t have this contact.
3. Strengthening the immune system
Another benefit of hugs lies in the strengthening of the immune system due to the action of oxytocin, a hormone that has been used in the induction of labor and the stimulation of milk production.
But what is the link between hugs and this hormone? Scientific research shows that oxytocin can be released in many ways. One of them is through sensory stimulation by touch or heat, that is, its secretion can be stimulated thanks to hugs.
This study indicates that oxytocin has an anxiolytic-like effect, promotes growth, and makes wounds heal more easily. On the other hand, this hormone reduces cortisol levels and, with it, stress.
4. Improve cardiovascular health
Oxytocin also has an influence on people’s cardiovascular health. The reason for this benefit is that this hormone modulates, as we mentioned before, the tachycardial responses produced by stress.
In addition, it has been proven that it has a leading role in central cardiovascular control, such as the Solitary Tract Nucleus (NTS), which is located in the caudal area of the medulla oblongata.
Herein lies the termination and projection of the visceral and cardiovascular afferent fibers of the glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves, which are directed towards the central nervous system.
5. Reducing fears
According to an article published in the Association for Psychological Science, which brings together some conclusions from different studies on the impact of hugs, they have concluded that hugging can help people to reduce their fears.
This article points out that people who have low self-esteem can receive greater benefits here, as they are people who tend to face greater existential concerns.
In this report, there’s a remarkable observation, which is that hugging inanimate objects such as a teddy bear can have the same effect as hugging a living being. This is due to the power of interpersonal contact.
6. Improving mood
When we hug a person, there’s an increase in serotonin and this is why our mood improves. This hormone acts as a neurotransmitter that also increases the feeling of pleasure and happiness. This is why when you’re sad and someone hugs you, you start to feel better.
When there are low levels of serotonin in the nervous system it can cause depression. So, hugging more can stimulate this hormone and improve the mood of people who are suffering from this condition.
7. Decreasing pain
According to a publication from the National Cancer Institute of the United States, there’s a term called “healing, or therapeutic, touch” which relates to the healing capacity that physical contact has on the symptoms of some chronic diseases. The effects of this so-called “healing touch” are under investigation.
In this regard, this preliminary study describes its influence on pain control in fibromyalgia patients. According to this research, the patients underwent six different therapeutic touch treatments, showing a significant decrease in pain in each one.
8. Improving communication
Communication between people is usually only verbal or facial, and many people don’t communicate by touch. Research indicates that different types of emotions can be expressed through hugs or other expressions of this type.
This test asked the participants to touch an unknown person in different parts of their body in order to make their emotions known.
It turned out that people decoded emotions like anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy. They even identified happiness and sadness, two emotions that were thought not to be communicated in this way.
Give and receive the benefits of hugs
As you can see, there are many benefits of hugging and this has been proven by science. Now you may be wondering just how many hugs you should give and for how long in order to obtain these benefits. There’s no exact answer to this question. So, our advice is that you hug and let yourself be hugged as many times as possible each day!
Remember that this form of expression is essential in all stages of life, especially in childhood. At this age, children can raise their self-esteem, generate a higher level of empathy, and understand more easily the importance of expressing their feelings without fear.
Likewise, by stimulating oxytocin, children grow healthier and are more likely to heal their wounds if they receive more hugs. In cases where the little ones feel a lack of love and physical contact, as in many orphanages, their capacity for affection and empathy can be affected, especially in adulthood.It might interest you...
- Inagaki TK, Eisenberger NI. Neural correlates of giving support to a loved one. Psychosom Med. 2012 Jan;74(1):3-7. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3182359335. Epub 2011 Nov 9. PMID: 22071630.
- Grewen KM, Anderson BJ, Girdler SS, Light KC. Warm partner contact is related to lower cardiovascular reactivity. Behav Med. 2003 Fall;29(3):123-30. doi: 10.1080/08964280309596065. PMID: 15206831.
- Uvnas-Moberg K, Petersson M. Oxytocin, ein Vermittler von Antistress, Wohlbefinden, sozialer Interaktion, Wachstum und Heilung [Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing]. Z Psychosom Med Psychother. 2005;51(1):57-80. German. doi: 10.13109/zptm.2005.51.1.57. PMID: 15834840.
- Touch May Alleviate Existential Fears for People With Low Self-Esteem. Association For Psychological Sciencie. 2013.
- Denison, Barbara MSN, ARNP, HNC, QTTT/P Touch the Pain Away: New Research on Therapeutic Touch and Persons With Fibromyalgia Syndrome, Holistic Nursing Practice: May-June 2004 – Volume 18 – Issue 3 – p 142-150
- Hertenstein, M. J., Holmes, R., McCullough, M., & Keltner, D. (2009). The communication of emotion via touch. Emotion, 9(4), 566–573. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016108
- Rosa Garrido Ferández. Oxitocina y control central cardiovascular. Interacciones en el nucleo del tracto solitario. Universidad de Málaga, España. 2003. Disponible en: https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/tesis?codigo=217389