It’s official, hugging is good for you, but only if you trust your hugger.
A study at the University of Vienna reported that a hug of 20 seconds or longer causes the pituitary gland to release the happy hormone, Oxytocin. A 2004 study by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina discovered that a daily oxytocin boost stops partners from flirting with others during the day and, over time, well-hugged individuals experienced increased empathy and reduced stress and anxiety.
A further positive side effect reported in the Journal of Neuroscience was that “women who reported greater frequency of hugs with their partners were found to have lower baseline blood pressure.”
However, random hugging can result in the reverse effect. Offering hugs to strangers like the “free hug” movement does, tends to increase stress, as does being hugged by a person you don’t completely trust or feel uncomfortable with.
So, to summarise what Patient QI has to say about hug therapy: choose your huggable people and then hug with abandon … it’s doctor’s orders!