Hugging Is Good Medicine

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Hugging Is Good Medicine
Hugging Is Good Medicine. Graphic ©

Hugging is a universally comforting human gesture. Whether you’re sad, happy, excited, or in pain, hugging seems to give you an emotional lift. According to scientists, the gesture offers more than the warm feeling we all love. Hugging improves our health from a biological perspective.

Virginia Satir, a renowned family therapist, insists that “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. [1] We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” So, how does stretching your arms to embrace another person improve your health?

Hugging as the Midas Touch of Human Communication

Ever heard the story of Midas, the legendary king who turned everything he touched into gold? Well, several studies suggest that giving another personal emotional support through touch or hugging might reduce anxiety, strengthen relationships, boost immunity, decrease blood pressure, reduce stress, and decrease the heart rate.

Hugging someone for a few seconds promotes the release of oxytocin – a neurotransmitter referred to as the bonding hormone – by the pituitary gland. This hormone is actually responsible for the strong bond between a mother and an infant or two lovers. Oxytocin facilitates several health benefits, including inhibiting the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands. Cortisol, while vital in the right quantity, is often referred to as the stress hormone or “harmful hormone” due to its negative impact when it is improperly regulated.

According to a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, “affectionate relationships with a supportive partner may contribute to lower reactivity to stressful life events and may partially mediate the benefit of marital support on better cardiovascular health.” [2] Similarly, another 2014 study claimed that more-frequent hugs reduced the susceptibility to stress-induced illnesses. [3]

Final Remarks

It appears hugging is a form of human communication that allows you to show support without the use of words. It’s a healing gesture that we should all practice as often as possible – and the best thing is that you cannot give a hug without receiving one in return.

Please note that this content should never be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.


[1] Magic Touch: Six Things You Can Do to Connect in a Disconnected World.

[2] Grewen, K. M. et al. 2003. Warm partner contact is related to lower cardiovascular reactivity.

[3] Cohen, S. et al. 2015. Does Hugging Provide Stress-Buffering Social Support? A Study of Susceptibility to Upper Respiratory Infection and Illness

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