Women, go find your man and give him a hug. And do it every day.
A new study from the University of North Carolina concludes that women's heart health benefits from daily hugs with their partners--much more so than do men's hearts--thanks to increased levels of oxytocin, a "bonding" hormone, reports the BBC News.
The study: Thirty-eight couples participated in the research. The men and women were each taken to separate rooms where their blood pressure and levels of oxytocin and cortisol were tested. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released during childbirth and breastfeeding, while cortisol is a stress hormone. The couples were then reunited where they sat together and talked about a time when they were particularly happy. Next they watched five minutes of a romantic film and then talked together for another 10 minutes. Finally, they hugged for 20 seconds.
The results: After hugging, both men and women had higher levels of oxytocin. Those who were in loving relationships scored the highest levels of oxytocin. In addition, all the women had lower levels of cortisol and greater reductions in blood pressure than the men.
"Greater partner support is linked to higher oxytocin levels for both men and women. However, the importance of oxytocin and its potentially cardioprotective effects may be greater for women," wrote the researchers, led by Dr. Karen Grewen, in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine.
"This growing body of research only goes to highlight how important social support is for everyone, not just those in a relationship," Dr. Charmaine Griffiths of the British Heart Foundation told the BBC. "This study has reinforced research findings that support from a partner, in this case a hug from a loved one, can have beneficial effects on heart health."