The Surprising Health Benefits of Hugs, Including Reduced Stress

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Did you know there are actually scientific benefits of hugs? According to a new study, hugging can help prevent stress and protect you from getting sick. Research from Carnegie Mellon University found that hugs are a form of social support that can protect stressed people from increased infections.

Science Daily explains, "They found that greater social support and more frequent hugs protected people from the increased susceptibility to infection associated with being stressed and resulted in less severe illness symptoms." Essentially, showing people you care can work wonders for not only their mental health, but physical health too.

Further expanding on the findings, Sheldon Cohen, the lead researcher, says:

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.

Basically, these results suggest that receiving support  from someone you trust—whether a hug or just being there to listen—can go a long way. While the study was conducted with adults, the same theory likely applies to teens. This means it's important to support teens, as well as encouraging teens to be there for their peers.

For more about the ways relationships influence teens' lives, check out the "Friendfluence" story from the Nov./Dec. issue of Choices! Choices is a health, well-being, and life skills magazine for middle and high school students.