- Boost your immune system In a 2015 study involving 404 healthy adults, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the effects of perceived social support and the receipt of hugs on the participants' susceptibility to developing the common cold after being exposed to the virus.
- Lessen stress The hugging and oxytocin release that comes with it can then have effects throughout the body, causing a decrease in heart rate and a drop in the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine.
- Higher pain tolerance There's also evidence that oxytocin can improve pain tolerance. A 2015 study from King's College in London found that oxytocin has analgesic effects, leading to a reduction in perceived pain intensity and lower pain ratings when participants were subjected to brief radiant heat pulses that were generated by an infrared laser.
- Lessen depression and anxiety Oxytocin is known to increase levels of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.
- Good for your heart...literally In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill , participants who didn't have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment.
People who perceived greater social support were less likely to come down with a cold, and the researchers calculated that the stress-buffering effects of hugging explained 32 percent of that beneficial effect. Even among those who got a cold, those who felt greater social support and received more frequent hugs had less severe symptoms.
A 2005 study from the University of North Carolina found that premenopausal women who got more frequent hugs from their partners had higher oxytocin levels and lower blood pressure than their peers who didn't get as many hugs.
A study by Emory University suggests well-hugged babies are less stressed as adults.
In fact, a 2010 study from Ohio State University found that when socially-housed animals were treated with a pharmacological agent that inhibited oxytocin signaling, they exhibited a decrease in depressive-like behavior.
In a study on fears and self-esteem, research published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that hugs and touch significantly reduce worry of mortality.
So whether it's a simple squeeze or a big bear hug, there are plenty of reasons why we should embrace, well, embracing someone.