Both emotional and physical closeness to loved ones can reduce stress, a new study finds.
Holding hands with a loved one, as well as being close by, both reduce stress.
In the study 66 adolescent girls had to give a spontaneous speech.
Sometimes their mother’s held their hand and other times not.
The psychologists wanted to see what the effect of emotional and physical closeness had on stress levels.
Ms Jessica Lougheed, the study’s first author, said:
“We wanted to test a new evolutionary theory in psychology called Social Baseline Theory which suggests that humans adapted to be close to other humans.
The idea is that individuals function at a relative deficit when they are farther away from people they trust.”
Researchers found the girls managed the stress better when their mothers held their hand.
Girls who felt emotionally closer to their mothers also coped better with the stress.
Ms Lougheed said:
“Our results suggest that we are better equipped to overcome challenging situations when we are closer — either physically or in terms of how we feel in our relationships — to people we trust.”
For mothers, though, the story was different:
“We were somewhat surprised to find that mothers’ stress did not vary by physical closeness — after all, it can be stressful for parents to watch their children perform, but being able to offer physical comfort might have lessened the mothers’ stress.
Thus, emotional load sharing in this context was not a function of the mothers’ stress level, and we expect that it occurred instead through the daughters’ perceptions of how stressful it was to give a speech.
That is, higher physical and/or relationship closeness helped the daughters feel like they could overcome the challenging situation.”
The research was published in the journal Emotion (Lougheed et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Stressed woman image from Shutterstock