Hugs May Help Women More Than Men

Study finds that partners' embrace reduces stress for women, not so much for guys
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2022 9:45 AM CDT
Hugs May Help Women More Than Men
   (Getty/gorodenkoff)

(Newser) – A quick embrace between romantic partners may do wonders for a woman, a new study in PLOS One suggests, but the same apparently can't be said for men. The study suggests that a hug reduces stress levels in women before a stressful task, though no such benefits were found in the male participants, reports CNN. German and Dutch researchers studied 76 people in romantic relationships, in this case heterosexual ones. All were asked to place one hand in an ice bath for three minutes, and prior to the task, half the couples were told to embrace and the others were not, per Neuroscience News. The women who embraced had demonstrably lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their systems afterward than those who did not. The effect on men was not measurable in the study.

"Simple advice would be to hug your partner, relatives, or friends if you know that they are confronted with stressful situations soon," study author Julian Packheiser of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience tells CNN. The big caveat there is to know the person well enough to be sure such a hug would be welcome. So why doesn't the same effect turn up in men? It could be cultural or even physiological (a difference in touch receptors), or it could be that this particular study just missed it.

"The effect could simply be smaller and was just undetected," says Packheiser. While the study sample was small, an uninvolved University of Arizona researcher says it looks to be well done and syncs with previous research on human touch. In its coverage, the UK Times sees a lesson for men: Hugging their partner may not be high on the priority list in the morning rush to leave the house, but based on this study, "it should be a priority." (Read more discoveries stories.)

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