The health benefits of affection

There’s nothing quite like the warm fuzzy feeling you get after a hug from a loved one, but did you know that there are a multitude of health benefits of affection?

From decreasing blood pressure and improving stress levels to lowering our cholesterol, affection has profound beneficial effects for our wellbeing.

We dive deep into the science to see what research really says about the health benefits of affection.

Hug for your health

Hugs for health

A good cuddle with a loved one isn’t just beneficial for boosting your bond, it may also lower your blood pressure too.

Researchers have found that women who frequently hug their partner are more likely to have lower blood pressure. It’s thought to be down to a hormone called oxytocin, which plays a pivotal role in childbirth as well as social bonding.

The study, published in Biological Psychology, found that women who frequently hug their partner have higher oxytocin levels than those who hug less often. This in turn is thought to have effects on lowering blood pressure.

Plus, hugs have also been found to protect us from the dangers of stress. One study, published in PLOS One, found that hugs act as a buffer to our negative emotions. People who received a supportive hug after a negative event were less likely to experience negative emotions. It certainly gives new meaning to the idea of ‘hugging it out’!

The benefits of marriage

Marriage

The traditional view of marriage – ’til death do us part – could have something in it.

A well-established link has been found between mortality rates and married individuals, with married people living longer. What’s more, it’s been suggested that the longer the marriage, the greater this effect is.

Recent research in 2019 further dived into this phenomenon. Published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers found that not just any marriage will do – happiness is key to reaping the beneficial effects of marriage and longevity.

Happily married couples were more likely to live longer than those in unhappy marriages, with those in unhappy marriages experiencing similar – if not worse – longevity than those who had never married or were widowed or divorced.  

While the exact mechanisms of how marriage boosts longevity is something of a mystery, married people are found to have better mental health, fewer health conditions and recover faster from illness. This could be due to spouses helping each other make healthier lifestyle choices or caring for each other in times of poor health.

Kiss your way to wellbeing

A good old smooch can be a lot of fun – but did you know it also has positive effects for our health?

A fascinating study, published in the Western Journal of Communication, instructed couples to increase kissing over a period of six weeks. After the study, couples who kissed more noticed significant decreases in their total cholesterol and perceived stress and were more likely to feel satisfied in their relationship.

Cholesterol is known to be a physiological effect of stress, with the research further supporting kissing’s stress-busting effects.

There’s good news too for bacteria fans – kissing enhances the transfer of bacteria from one person to another. A study, published in Microbiome, found that on average 80 million bacteria are transferred in a kiss lasting 10 seconds. As we know, a diverse microbiome has a beneficial effect on our immune system and overall health. All the more reason to enjoy a kiss or two!

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