Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University say they have found a way to reduce infection from the common cold, and it is adorable: It’s hugs.
Sheldon Cohen, a psychologist at the university, and his team first asked 404 volunteers a series of questions about their social lives: How often did they experience conflicts with their friends and family members? And about how many hugs do they get in an average day? “We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses. We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety,” said Cohen in the release accompanying the new paper, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.
The research team then exposed their human lab rats to the common-cold virus and monitored them for signs of infection. Here’s what they found, according to the release:
The results showed that perceived social support reduced the risk of infection associated with experiencing conflicts. Hugs were responsible for one-third of the protective effect of social support. Among infected participants, greater perceived social support and more frequent hugs both resulted in less severe illness symptoms whether or not they experienced conflicts.
Previous research has shown a link between social support and improved health, although the exact mechanism behind the healing power of hugs isn’t clear. And it’s just one study, so let’s not all start throwing out our Mucinex quite yet. Even still: Recovering from a cold because of hugs, not cold drugs, is a very nice thought.