When Sanjay Dutt in ‘Munnabhai MBBS’ vouches for hugging and healing the stressed without love from society, it was a big hit and not soon, scientists have come out with an explanation that more frequent hugs protect stressed people from getting sick.
A reserch team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) found that greater social support and more frequent hugs helped people protect themselves from infections associated with being stressed.
“We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses. We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety,” said Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology at CMU.
The researchers actually set out to study hugging as an example of social support because hugs are typically a marker of having a more intimate and close relationship with another person and they assessed the perceived social support and frequency of hugs in 404 healthy adults by a questionnaire.
The participants were then intentionally exposed to a common cold virus and monitored in quarantine to assess infection and signs of illness but the results showed that perceived social support reduced the risk of infection than those who faced conflicts alone and isolated. Hugs were responsible for one-third of the protective effect of social support, they said.
“This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress,” said Cohen.
“The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioural indicator of support and intimacy,” Cohen said. “Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection,” Cohen added.
The report has been published in the journal Psychological Science.