This morning’s *USA Today* includes an article: “Human touch may have
some healing properties” by Sharon Jayson.
Here is an excerpt:
A new study from researchers in Utah finds that a warm touch — the non-
sexual, supportive kind — tempers stress and blood pressure, adding to a
growing body of research on how emotions affect health.
The study of 34 young married couples ages 20 to 39 by researchers at
Brigham Young University in Provo and the University of Utah in Salt
Lake City found that massage and other supportive and caring touch lower
stress hormones and blood pressure, particularly among men, while also
enhancing oxytocin, a hormone thought to calm and counter stress.
The findings will be published in the Oct. 14 issue of the journal
Brigham Young psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad says the study
aimed to learn whether increasing the level of supportive physical
contact would improve health-related physical outcomes.
Twenty couples, all married at least six months, participated in a four-
week intervention that promoted emotional and physical closeness. They
were brought into the lab for training and testing, but the bulk of
their actions were at home, including a 30-minute massage (neck,
shoulder or forehead) three times a week. Participants wore portable
blood pressure monitors for 24 hours to supply a number of readings.
They also completed questionnaires about how often they hugged, kissed,
held hands or were otherwise affectionate. The 14-couple control group
had testing but not the intervention.
“While a fair amount has been done on massage’s effects on anxiety and
depression and seems to have a positive impact, we don’t know that much
about specific biological factors,” says Gail Ironson, a physician and
professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Miami in
Coral Gables, Fla.
Behavioral neurobiologist C. Sue Carter of the University of Illinois at
Chicago says taking the study out of the laboratory is novel because
such settings may increase stress.
“The nice thing about this study is that it lets people live in their
own world and see effects of their own social interactions without the
complexities” of being in a lab, she says.