Can Hugging Help a Cold?
Anecdotally hugging is said to make people feel better, but in terms of scientific evidence it is not well understood if hugging really does have a measurable effect.
Hugging can be considered social support that is already thought to provide a protective effect from stress.
But new research aimed to examine if a reduction in stress offered by hugging could then reduce the subsequent risk of developing a cold:
Using a sample of 404 healthy adults, we examined the roles of perceived social support and received hugs in buffering against interpersonal stress-induced susceptibility to infectious disease
Participants completed baseline questionnaires that examined the levels of perceived social support that they were receiving.
Participants were then exposed to a cold-like virus in order to examine how this and the level of perceived social support would correlate.
Once the experiment had been completed and the result analysed the research team were able to identify that hugging could be beneficial:
For participants perceiving low social support, more-frequent interpersonal tension and conflict was associated with a greater probability of infection subsequent to viral exposure
Although this was not found in participants with high levels of social support:
among participants perceiving greater support, the frequency of tension and conflict was unrelated to infection susceptibility
When participants had been infected with the cold-like virus, greater perceived social support and more-frequent hugs both predicted less-severe illness signs:
The stress-buffering effect emerged for hugging, which explained 32% of the attenuating effect of support.