[Paleopsych] BBC: How hugs can aid women's hearts
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Mon Aug 15 01:21:48 UTC 2005
How hugs can aid women's hearts
Women's heart health may benefit more from hugs than men's, a study
A team from the University of North Carolina studied the effects of
hugging on both partners in 38 couples.
The study showed hugs increased levels of oxytocin, a "bonding"
hormone, and reduced blood pressure - which cuts the risk of heart
But, writing in the Psychosomatic Medicine, the researchers said
women recorded greater reductions in blood pressure than men after their
During the study, the men and women were taken to separate rooms to
test their blood pressure and levels of oxytocin, which is released
during childbirth and breastfeeding, and cortisol, a stress hormone.
The couples were then reunited and asked to sit together and talk
about a time when they were particularly happy.
They then watched five minutes of a romantic film before being left
to talk to each other for a further 10 minutes.
Next, the couples were asked to hug for 20 seconds.
Both men and women were seen to have higher levels of oxytocin after the
People in loving relationships were found to have higher levels of
the hormone than others.
But the study also found all women had reduced levels of cortisol
following the hug, as well as reporting the blood pressure benefits.
The researchers, led by psychologist Dr Karen Grewen, wrote in
Psychosomatic Medicine: "Greater partner support is linked to higher
oxytocin levels for both men and women.
"However, the importance of oxytocin and its potentially
cardioprotective effects may be greater for women."
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson for the British Heart
Foundation, said: "Scientists are increasingly interested in the
possibility that positive emotions can be good for your health.
"This study has reinforced research findings that support from a
partner, in this case a hug from a loved one, can have beneficial
effects on heart health."
She added: "British Heart Foundation researchers have already
demonstrated links between a positive emotional state, such as
happiness, and low levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
"This growing body of research only goes to highlight how important
social support is for everyone, not just those in a relationship."
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