Touch: Why hugs relieve stress only in women – Wikipedia

A woman can relax at the touch of her loved ones, but a man cannot. Photo: Imago / David Munoz


When everything becomes too much for you, the tenderness of your loved ones reduces stress. But this only applies to women. According to psychologists, this has to do with evolution. but why?

For Italian philosopher Luciano di Cresenzo, it was clear: “Each of us is an angel with only one wing. We can only fly if we hug each other.” A recent study now confirms that hugs can indeed give us support in stressful situations. But it seems that this It only applies to women.

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For the study, a research team led by Julian Buckheiser of the University of Bochum put 38 pairs under stress: They were asked to dip their arm in ice water for as long as possible while looking into a camera lens. Before that, half of the couples were allowed to hug each other for a maximum of 20 seconds, while the other half had to do without this interaction. The test subjects’ stress level was determined by taking a saliva sample, which was checked for the stress hormone cortisol.

A difference was observed between the sexes

It was found that women’s cortisol levels rise significantly less if they have previously hugged with their partner. “In the case of men, on the other hand, we found no evidence that they would benefit from a short hug as a stress reliever,” the researchers said.

Females are more responsive to touch

Possible explanations for the effects

But why does cuddling have such a positive effect only on women? The researchers from Bochum were able to rule out the possibility that the men might not be completely happy in their relationship – and thus found hugs to be less reassuring: before the ice water test, they used a questionnaire to determine that their subjects were alike. Happy in their relationship was their partnership. From this trend, no explanation could be found that could explain the reduction in gender tension when hugging.



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It must be related to physical differences: Women are known to release more oxytocin when they are in physical contact with a loved one. And this substance, often referred to as the “cuddling hormone”, not only guarantees a strong feeling of tenderness, but also reduces the secretion of cortisol from the adrenal glands.

Allergies have evolutionary causes

Why do women produce more oxytocin?

But the explanation is clearly this: Why do women actually produce more oxytocin when they’re bodily tender? Valentina Russo of the Sapienza University of Rome evaluated the scientific data on this topic. According to this, there are good evolutionary reasons for this phenomenon. “In their relationship with their children, mothers especially rely on the ability to correctly interpret subtle touches,” explains the psychiatrist. This likely means that they were “generally more receptive to communication through physical contact”.

Guys should hug anyway

Therefore, for women, hugs reduce stress because evolution has made them more sensitive to skin contact as potential mothers. On the other hand, a man tends to be illiterate in this regard. But that doesn’t mean that men won’t have to hug their partners anymore in tough times. On the contrary: after all, women become calmer as a result – and thus men can also do something only women are good at.

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