Hugging Out Upper Respiratory Infections

SHAFAQNA – A hug a day may keep a cold at bay, making recipients less prone to upper respiratory infections. At least that’s what a recent study out of Carnegie-Mellon University says. The study, published in Psychological Science, found that increased social support actually helped individuals better maintain their health.

The study was based off of two previous studies, one conducted between 2000 and 2004, and another between 2007 and 2011. In all, the studies involved 404 participants. All participants underwent 14 daily phone interviews where daily hugs, perceived social support, and conflicts were discussed. The researchers sought to determine if perceived social support and received hugs could protect against stress-induced susceptibility to infectious disease.

Participants were then inoculated with a virus, either rhinovirus or influenza A – viruses which cause the common cold. Participants were later quarantined in a hotel where researchers assessed developing cold-like symptoms. Viral cultures, mucous weight, nasal clearance time, and antibodies to virus were assessed before and after inoculation.

Researchers found, when controlled for other factors, perceived social support was linked to decreased risk of infection and developing clinical symptoms of a cold. In addition, researchers found hugging contributed to a third of perceived social support. In those with social support, daily tension played a smaller role in disease development than those who feel like they don’t have social support.

“The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioral indicator of support and intimacy. Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection, “ says head researcher Sheldon Cohen in a statement.

This study is amongst many that support the fact disease is a psychosociobiological process and looks further into the importance of developing true, meaningful relationships over the increasingly more superficial ones we develop in our hectic lifestyle. Hopefully studies like this makes us reevaluate our values, how we live our lives, and what we take for granted.


Cohen S. Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness. Psychological Science 2014. Published online December 19, 2014

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