The sick bug that comes around during the holiday season can be tamed with an unlikely weapon: a hug.
Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University researched whether hugs could combat illness. The research found the more hugs people received; the less likely they were to get sick, even when under stress.
“We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses,” Sheldon Cohen said, a psychology professor at the university. “We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety.”
The researchers hypothesized that hugs would provide protection.
The study looked at 400 healthy adults: their level of social support and frequency of conflict with others. The participants were interviewed by phone for two weeks and asked how many hugs they received each day. To examine the protective power of hugs the participants were exposed to a common cold virus and put in quarantine to monitor signs of illness.
The study concluded that those who experienced more hugs were less likely to become infected. Those who did become infected experienced milder colds, regardless of experienced conflict with others.
“Those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection,” Cohen said.