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Hugs, Not Drugs: A Loving Embrace Significantly Lowers Cortisol in Women

If you thought hugs were universally delightful, think again. A recent study out of Germany finds women get more out of them than men. The study looked into the connection between hugs and stress relief and determined that a hug from a romantic partner noticeably reduced stress in women. In men — not so much.

While hugs, massages, hand holding, and other loving touches have repeatedly been proven to lower stress in women, this may be the first time a research project looked to see if there were differences in how men react.

It’s not to say men are ‘meh’ about a loving embrace, but it does suggest that hugs lack the significant benefits to mental health for guys that the ladies experience.

To quantify their findings, the researchers examined the stress hormone cortisol, which is found in saliva. They found that the marker was lower in females who received a hug before a stressful event — like a job interview, or a test or exam.

The study also looked at 76 people in romantic relationships and attempted to create a stress test for them. The researchers asked participants to stick one hand in ice water for three minutes, while they were filmed making eye contact with the camera. Stressy! Before taking the ice plunge, half of the couples were asked to pause for a brief hug. And evidently, women got a lot more out of it.

Men did not exhibit the same drop in cortisol as women. There was also no shift for the guys in other stress-related metrics, including blood pressure.

Once news of the power hug circulated, the Cleveland Clinic, which did not conduct the original study, looked at the fluctuation of cortisol. The stress hormone pulses through the body when we are anxious or overwhelmed. To get the full soothing effect, Cleveland Clinic suggests holding the hug for ten seconds or so.

Embrace the data, and give your lady a nice embrace before her next big event.

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