It’s no secret that consensual physical touch has a lot of benefits, but are there differences between men and women in how touch affects stress? That’s what this study sought to find out.
The researchers analyzed 76 people who were in romantic relationships in order to look at how hugging affected stress levels. They were instructed to keep a hand submerged in an ice-water bath for three minutes, all while being observed and looking into a camera (a stressful experience, no doubt).
But before that, half of the participants hugged their romantic partner, and the other half did not. The idea was to see whether hugging before the stressful event would influence the participants’ stress response, which researchers assessed based on cortisol levels in their saliva, their blood pressure, and their emotional state.