Mum was right. You will feel a whole lot better after a cuddle
Scientists have confirmed the wisdom of mothers down the ages - a real hug does you good
Sunday 07 August 2005
Some turn to yoga or t'ai chi, others swear by red wine. No stone has been left unturned in the age-old pursuit of a long and healthy life. But now medical researchers have concluded that the secret of longevity may lie in nothing more outlandish than what comes naturally to mothers the world over.
A good old-fashioned cuddle, say the scientists, can reduce heart disease, cut down stress and promote longevity. The researchers even advise nervous public speakers to indulge in a bit of hugging before they go on stage to face their audience.
At the heart of it is a so-called "cuddle hormone", oxytocin, a chemical associated with a range of health benefits, which shows a marked increase in the blood supply after just 10 minutes of warm, supportive touching. The finding might explain why married couples enjoy better health than singletons.
Some studies have suggested that divorce, bereavement and social isolation damage health. But what it is about marriage that is protective, and the mechanisms involved, have been unclear.
However, the scientists also found that the quality of the hug is crucial - and, for example, the celebrity embrace performed in the glare of flashlights might not count. Instead the cuddle is at its strongest in a warm, supportive relationship.
Volunteer partners taking part in the experiment were first put into separate rooms. Their blood pressure and levels of oxytocin and cortisol, the stress hormone, were tested.
Then they were seated on a loveseat in a quiet room and told to sit close together, holding hands. They watched a five-minute segment of a romantic video, followed by two minutes talking about a time when they felt close as a couple. At the end of the session, partners stood for a half-minute hug.
"Our findings suggest that when the relationship is supportive and strong, time spent with the partner may be beneficial by reducing blood pressure and protecting against future heart disease," said the researchers, whose findings appear in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine this week. "These are the first findings in humans linking oxytocin to the strength of the partner relationship, and it was seen in both men and women.''
The latest research suggests that oxytocin is the chemical that gives marriage its beneficial effect. Its role is to calm and destress, and it is thought that touch triggers the body into producing the hormone. Touch stimulates production of oxytocin which, in turn, promotes a desire to touch and be touched.
In another study, the same researchers from the University of North Carolina told couples they would have to give speeches. Before they did so, 100 of the couples sat holding hands for a short time, then they embraced for 20 seconds. Another group of couples rested quietly and were separated from their partners. During their speeches, heart rates and blood pressure rose twice as high in the second group compared to the hand-holders.
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
- 2 Scottish independence: What you shouldn't tweet about if you want to avoid jail today
- 3 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 4 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 5 Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...
£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...