Health Bytes

The Science of Hugs

We need 4 hugs a day for survival … 8 hugs a day for maintenance …12 hugs a day for growth.”

Virginia Satir, world-renowned family therapist

We’ve been admonished in recent months to avoid physical contact with our family and friends to avoid contagion. Sadly, science suggests that the recommendation does not support the immune system!  One study showed that  people with a social support system that hugged each other frequently got sick less often and with less severity than people without a hugging support system.

You might surmise that happier people are just healthier and more huggable; research suggests more specific health effects of hugging. Multiple studies demonstrate that the regular practice of hugging reduces blood pressure and heart rate, lessening heart attack risk. Hugging coaxes the body from the tension and hyper alertness of the “fight or flight” sympathetic state into the relaxed, calm, balancing parasympathetic state that protects and restores our health.  

Don’t hug and run; hugs of 20 seconds or more are required for the best effect! The sustained hug stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone and neuropeptide first associated with childbirth and bonding, but also related to promoting benevolence and sharing, as well as reducing pain and promoting some kinds of learning.

Hug up! for the health of it…