Hugs Really Do Make You Feel Better — Science Agrees

Hugs Really Do Make You Feel Better — Science Agrees

Each person was asked about their mood, whether they had experienced conflict and if they had received a hug that day, among other questions.

"A very simple, straightforward behavior - hugging - might be an effective way of supporting both men and women who are experiencing conflict in their relationships", said co-author Michael Murphy, a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.

The research, carried out at Carnegie Mellon University, studied 400 people and found those who shared a hug with the person they'd fought with were less likely to harbour negative feelings in the hours and days after.

The findings appeared in the journal PLOS ONE. Each person also went through a physical exam and filled out a questionnaire about their health and social network at the beginning of the study.

"Results indicated that there was an interaction between hug receipt and conflict exposure such that receiving a hug was associated with a smaller conflict-related decrease in positive affect and a smaller conflict-related increase in negative affect when assessed concurrently", the study reads. The study's participants also reported an attenuation of negative mood the next day, suggesting that the psychological benefits of touch may linger for a significant time.

That trend was true regardless of gender, age, race, marital status, overall number of social interactions and average mood.

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"There is something effective in reducing conflict or the negative emotion associated with conflict by having contact with one another", says Cleveland Clinic psychologist Dr. Scott Bea.

It stands to reason that social support would make somebody feel better in the throes of a stressful situation, but Murphy says there's conflicting evidence in this area.

Murphy and Stratyner agreed that people can likely tell the difference between a heartfelt hug and a more perfunctory one.

A 2015 Carnegie Mellon study found that those who were hugged more had a lower risk of catching colds after being exposed to the virus, Murphy noted.

"We still have questions about when, how, and for whom hugs are most helpful. However, our study suggests that consensual hugs might be useful for showing support to somebody enduring relationship conflict".

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