What is it about?

Our study investigated whether we can use an easily applicable intervention, namely a hug between two partners, to reduce our stress reaction to an upcoming stressful event. As a stress situation in the laboratory, we used a well-evaluated task in which participants have to submerge their hand in ice-cold water while being observed by a strict experimenter. We measured the bodily response of the stress hormone cortisol in romantic partners that either hugged or did not hug before the stress situation and found that the stress reaction was protected against in the hugging group. The effect was however selective for women.

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Why is it important?

The study has important implications for everyday life as hugs between partners are an easy to adminster intervention before going into stressful life situations such as job interviews, exams or anything that is subjectively perceived as stressful. For women at least, this could help in regulating the stress response of the body. Since our lives are full of stressors, finding simple ways to reduce daily life stress is a crucial endeavour.


I truly enjoyed designing and supervising this study as it was in part also a student project. The students were extremely enthusiastic about the topic and the results and are also included as co-authors on the publication to reflect their work.

Julian Packheiser

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Romantic partner embraces reduce cortisol release after acute stress induction in women but not in men, PLoS ONE, May 2022, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266887.
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