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Physician's Fact #16: Human Hugs Defeat Depression

Can a hug a day help keep depression away!

Don’t underestimate the power of human touch.

In a recent study (link) researchers tested whether hugs protected stressed people from getting sick. They found that greater social support and more frequent hugs protected people from the increased susceptibility to infection associated with being stressed and depressed.

"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 Dr. Cohen, one of the researchers."This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress," Cohen said. "The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioral indicator of support and intimacy.”

Cohen added, "Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected.”

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