Hugging It Out Can Prevent the Flu, Says Study That Makes Me Feel All Warm and Fuzzy Inside
Our flu shots this year might not do much to protect us from the strain of flu that’s going around — but you know what might ward off the winter chills? Hugging. For real. A new study from Carnegie Mellon University found that hugs can actually help prevent you from getting sick. If you're the type that likes to cuddle, now would be a good time to get to it.
According to Time, previous research has shown that strong social ties can help alleviate or even prevent psychological issues like stress, anxiety, and depression; the CMU researchers were interested in finding out whether it worked for physiological ones, too. And hey, guess what? It does! People who felt strongly perceived social support ended up displaying less acute symptons, and how many hugs they got was a big part of how strongly they perceived that social support. Neat-o, right?
Here’s how the experiment went down: Researchers asked 404 healthy adults to take a question assessing perceived support; they also collected information about frequencies of interpersonal conflicts and receiving hugs by conducting telephone interviews. After these pieces of data were gathered, the participants were put in quarantine and intentionally exposed to a common cold virus (fun!). Researchers studied the participants’ signs of illness and found that “perceived social support reduced the risk of infection associated with experiencing conflicts.” Specifically, hugs counted for about a third of the protective effect of social support; those who perceived greater social support and got more hugs showed less severe symptoms of illness, regardless as to whether they experienced actual conflict.
Honestly, the thing that makes me most excited about this study is the fact that the hugging is effective because of its status as social support, not as a physical preventative. I am not a scientist, nor am I a doctor, so I can’t say whether exposing yourself to more people might for some reason inoculate you against more germs or whatever; some part of my brain seems to think that might have been the case, though, as when I first read the phrase “hugs can prevent the flu,” that was immediately where my thoughts went. The reason I was thrilled to find out that wasn’t the case is this: I don’t particular enjoy hugging strangers. I love getting hugs from people I hold dear; however, I get a little anxious when it comes to finding myself enveloped in the arms of a stranger.
But hey, now I have an excuse to hug my favorite people even more! That’s awesome, especially since I get to see more of them next week for the holidays! Hoorah! Here, I made you a meme:
There. That should do it.