Monday, January 5, 2015

A Hug a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

Are you a “hugger?” My brain has never pushed me in that direction, per se. Perhaps that came from being raised in a family where I don’t recall much hugging. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, I hugged my pets and sometimes close friends (but not always as hugging was never a measure of how much I cared about and valued a specific individual). It’s commonly understood that ongoing stressors such as conflict with others can reduce immune system function and increase the risk of infection. And the brain and immune system have their hands in each other's pockets, so to speak. Recently research by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University looked at conflict and social support—including hugging by trusted persons—and its association with risk of infection and with severity of illness symptoms. Lead researcher Sheldon Cohen and associates assessed 404 healthy individuals including the frequencies of interpersonal conflicts and receiving hugs. The 404 participants were then exposed to a cold virus and quarantined to assess for infection and symptoms of illness. What do you suppose they found? More tomorrow. 

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