The Importance of Touch
Physical contact with a partner may reduce the harmful effects of stress, according to a study presented at the American Psychosomatic Society.
A group of 185 adults with spouses were told either to hold hand while viewing a pleasant ten-minute video and then hug for 20 seconds, or to rest quietly without their partners.
Next, all participants recounted a recent event that made them angry or stressed.
When researchers compared the stress responses between the two groups afterward, the participants who had had physical contact with a partner fared much better.
While systolic (upper) heart rate jumped 24 points in the no-contact group, the contact group's reading was less than half of that. The no-contact group also had greater increases in heart rate - ten beats per minute, compared to the five beats per minute for the contact group.
Touch seems to lower the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn increases levels of serotonin and dopamine.