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Hug day: discover the health benefits of physical touch

When we are feeling sad or alone, often a hug can really help ease those feelings. Evidence has already shown that consensual physical touch can be beneficial for mental health, relieving symptoms related to anxiety and depression.

It is with these benefits in mind that the Hug Day is celebrated every day May 22nd in Brazil, aiming to strengthen affectionate bonds between people.

But, after all, what are the benefits of hugs? A CNN listed what scientific studies have already discovered on the subject. Check it out below:

Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression

A study published in the scientific journal Nature This year, carried out with ten thousand participants, it revealed that physical touch, including hugs, can alleviate pain and symptoms of anxiety and depression. The research also showed that the interaction does not need to be long and that the more frequent, the better.

Researchers also found that touching social robots, weighted blankets and body pillows also have positive effects on mental health. However, it has been noted that “skin-to-skin” contact is best for this purpose.

Reduces stress in women

One small study published in the scientific journal PLOS One, in 2022, revealed that hugs can help women reduce stress. According to researchers, physical touch helps the body release oxytocin a chemical known as “love hormone ” for promoting well-being and feelings of togetherness.

Furthermore, the study showed that hugs can reduce the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the body. To reach these conclusions, the research analyzed 76 men and women who were romantically involved. The positive effects were not observed in men.

May Boost Heart Health

One another studypublished in Journal of Behavioral Medicine in 2003, suggests that hugging can be beneficial for heart health . To reach this conclusion, the researchers divided participants into two groups: one who was instructed to hold hands with their romantic partner for 10 minutes and then hug them for 20 seconds, and another whose couples were instructed to hold sitting in silence for 10 minutes and 20 seconds.

According to the study, the first group showed significant reductions in blood pressure and heart rate compared to the second group. For researchers, the findings suggest that an affectionate relationship, with physical touch, can be good for heart health.

May reduce pain in those with fibromyalgia

Research published in the scientific journal Holistic Nursing Practice in 2004 showed that hugging can be therapeutic for people with fibromyalgia. The syndrome is characterized by pain that affects the entire body, especially the muscles, fatigue and unrefreshing sleep.

The study subjected study participants, who were patients with fibromyalgia, to six therapeutic touch treatments, which included hugging. Each treatment involved light touches to the skin and, according to research, this was related to reduced pain and improved quality of life.

May reduce inflammation

One study published in 2020, in Western Journal of Communication, suggests that hugging may be able to reduce inflammation in the body. In the research, inflammation was measured through saliva samples from 20 adults, who were instructed to record the number of hugs they received over 14 days.

The results showed that the greater the number of hugs received, the lower the level of inflammation after the study period.

May help reduce the severity of the common cold

Another study, published in 2014 in Psychological Scienceshowed that hugs can reduce stress and, consequently, reduce the severity of infection caused by a common cold, especially when hugs are frequent.

The findings were found after analyzing 404 adults, who answered a questionnaire and interviews about interpersonal conflicts and receiving hugs, for 14 consecutive nights. Participants were later exposed to a virus that causes a common cold and were monitored in quarantine to assess for signs of infection and illness.

Source: CNN Brasil

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