When faced with a stressful situation, women benefit from a hug. Men don’t benefit nearly as much. In a new study published in the journal PLOS One, Dutch researchers assessed the stress responses to hugs from a romantic partner in 76 people. Women who received a hug from their partner showed significant drops in levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. The researchers believe that hugs and other signs of affection cause your body to release a neurotransmitter called oxytocin, which reduces cortisol. This improved stress response, plus the social support provided by someone else, appears to protect you from the negative effects of stress.
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