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December 10, 2016


What exactly do we know about the benefits of hugging? We know that hugging makes us feel protected, loved and connected with people. It can act as a stress-relief and it can also boost our confidence and general well-being. But do you know that hugging may also prevent us from getting ill? I’m sure your first thoughts are: ‘‘What? Oh, come on, give me a break; how can this actually be possible?’’. Well, according to researchers it is! Let’s see why:

A 2015 research showed that hugging may prevent people from getting ill. More specifically, a number of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in the USA examined the effects of social support and received hugs on the participants’ susceptibility to developing the common cold, after they have been injected with a virus. Social support can be broadly defined as support which can be either emotional; for instance, through offering advice, psychological support, compassion, or through resources; such as helping a friend pay the rent or helping our child fix their* bike. The findings from the study led the researchers to conclude that people who had greater social support and received daily hugs were less likely to catch a cold. As the authors note, this is because hugging, as a means of conveying empathy, caring and reassurance, is an important contributor to the protective influence of perceived support against the pathogenic effects of stress.

In simple words, what this means, is that every time we experience stress, our immune system is weakened and that the positive feelings we experience from receiving social support, especially through physical touch, i.e. hugging, kissing, holding hands, could protect us from illnesses, such as the common cold and the flu. These data are consistent with other studies that showed that physical contact reduces the effect of stress on biological markers thought to be precursors of illness. Moreover, the same lead researcher in an earlier study showed that the more diverse social ties a person has, such as ties with family, friends, colleagues and the community, the less susceptible to getting ill is.


This finding becomes particularly important if we take into account that today’s children consistently report having many stressors in their daily lives, including homework, peer pressure, receiving poor grades, fear of bullying and isolation. If we add to all these the fact that a lot of parents don’t get to have enough physical contact with their children as a result of working long hours -in many cases away from home- then this research makes a potentially staggering statement parents might as well carefully think about. Why? Because just like adults, so do children need to have coping strategies. Such defence mechanisms could help them deal with everyday stress that could weaken their immune system, thus making them more vulnerable to colds. Hugging could be one of those coping strategies or defence mechanisms, if you like.

Putting the finishing touch, my suggestion would be: Why not make hugging a daily routine family activity and save ourselves from the trouble of visiting the doctor every month? Let’s all start right now!

*Note: Singular ‘their’ is used here to refer to a single person, whose gender is unknown.


COHEN, S. DOYLE, W.J., SKONER, D.P, RABIN, B.S., GWALTNEY, J.M.Jr., 1997. Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. Journal of the American Medical Association, 277, pp. 1940-1944.

COHEN, S. JANICKI-DEVERTS, D. TURNER, R.B., DOYLE, W.J., 2015. Does hugging provide stress-buffering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness. Psychological Science, 26 (2), pp. 135-147.

GRANT, K.E. COMPAS, B.E., THURM, A.E., McMAHON, S.D., GIPSON, P.Y., WESTERHOLM, R., 2006. Stressors and child and adolescent psychopathology: Evidence of moderating and mediating effects. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, pp. 257-283.

HOROWITZ, J.A., VESSEY, J. CARLSON, D.L. BRADLEY, J.F., MONTOYA, C., McCULLOUGH, B., DAVID, J., 2004. Teasing and bullying experiences of middle school students. Journal of the Americal Psychiatric Nurses Association, 10, pp. 165-172.

RYAN-WENGER, N., SHARRER, V., CAMPBELL, K., 2005. Changes in children’s stressors over the past 30 years. Paediatric Nursing, 31 (4), pp. 282-291.

Category: articles



About the author



Eva Sakellaridi is an education consultant and a researcher at the University College London (UCL), Institute of Education (IoE). She has a BA in English Language and Literature (2006), a Diploma in TESOL (2010) and a Certificate in Educational Psychology (2011). She also holds a MA in Education with Distinction from the University of Bath (2014). Among Eva’s main broad fields of interest are character education, educational psychology, school leadership and school improvement. Prior to becoming an education consultant, Eva worked in a range of public and private, preschool, primary and secondary educational organisations, universities and charities in a variety of capacities including classroom teacher, remedial teacher, student mentor, education programme manager and deputy school manager. Throughout her teaching career, she has observed that most children acquire academic skills more effortlessly and quicker compared to lifelong skills and has witnessed many and various cases of parental anxiety and concern about children’s character development and learning. As a result, Eva has always used scientific research to explore and personalise old and new pedagogical methods to empower both children and their parents.

Penelope’s Loom


Welcome to “Penelope’s Loom”! This is the name of our collection of educational articles that includes only research-based information on education, educational psychology and parenting, taken from sources such as scientific publications, reviews of research and government reports. Our aim is to offer our readers objective, authentic, scholarly information in a clear and simple way. If you would like to learn more about any of the themes tackled in our articles, feel free to contact us at and we will send you an e-copy of the references and/or further readings.


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