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  • Marcella Derrick

Better Health Through Hugging

First, we need to know what the hormones oxytocin and norepinephrine are.


Oxytocin is defined in a number of interesting ways (can we talk?). Here are ways to define it:

1. Oxytocin is the hormone of love.

2. The hormone of love and cuddle chemical.

3. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up. It acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In fact, the hormone plays a huge role in pair bonding.

And you thought you picked your mate by how handsome he was, or how much money he made or education he had, or good job he had or humor he had, etc… If you are a male, you thought you picked your mate because she had sexy blond/brunette/red hair, or great body, or her excellent intelligence, or humor, etc…

Even though that person had qualities you liked, what really happened was, the two of you hugged/cuddled/kissed and oxytocin went to high levels making you feel really, really, good and you wanted to be with this person again and again to keep those strong good feelings. Why don’t you tell your mate he/she causes your oxytocin to go sky high when you hug or kiss. Then, after he/she stops laughing, tell him/her what it is. My wish for you is to have a high oxytocin level daily.


The hormone norepinephrine rises during stressful situations, …it increases heart rate and blood flow to the heart, brain and muscles, and prepares the body for the fight-or-flight response. It works by constricting (narrowing) the blood vessels and increasing blood pressure and blood glucose (sugar) levels.

Let’s say you see a rattlesnake just outside your door. Your norepinephrine level (and adrenalin) just went up to prepare you for fight or flight. Let’s say you are under a severe tornado threat and you can’t find your child who is outside somewhere. Your fight/flight response (norepinephrine and adrenalin) kicks in until you get your child in the house. Basically, if you perceive a threat, real or not, your norepinephrine level goes up and increases your heart beats, constricts your blood vessels causing higher blood pressure and sugar kicks in to give you energy to deal with the threat.

If you have heart issues, and/or high blood pressure, and/or diabetes, putting excess stress on your heart and upping your blood pressure too much and sugar dumping into your blood stream (or you have low sugar after taking an insulin shot, so not enough or any gets into your blood stream), is contraindicated for your health at that moment and later.

In an emergency situation, the stress level will be very high. Undoubtedly, there will be fatal heart attacks caused by stress and strokes will happen causing paralysis or loss of mental power, or death, due to uncontrolled high blood pressure. It appears hugging those you love brings heart rates down and reduces high blood pressure and a more peaceful, contented mood happens. We need to know why this happens, so we understand how to make it happen when we and others are under stress.


Two psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Karen Grewen and Karen Light, did TWO studies on the effects of hugging. Here are the two studies as I have summarized them:

Study One

This study consisted of two groups and heart rate and blood pressure baselines were taken before the study in order to document physical changes in heart beat or blood pressure after the procedure, if there were any.

Couples were chosen who were married or had long-term cohabiting partners. They were divided into two groups.

Group one was 100 adults (50 couples) with spouses or long-term partners. They were asked to hold hands while viewing a 10-minute pleasant video, then to hug for 20 seconds – this was the hugger group.

Group two was made up of 85 adults WITHOUT their spouses or partners and were asked to rest quietly for that time and think about what they would do if they had the whole day to themselves - this was the nonhugger group.

After this period ended, all were required to give a brief talk in which they spoke about something that had stressed or angered them. Following the speeches, all had their blood pressure and heart rate measured. A summary of results is as follows:

Blood Pressure

Systolic and diastolic pressures rose in both groups.

Elevations in both systolic and diastolic pressures were significantly higher in the non-huggers compared to the huggers.

The rise in systolic pressure among the nonhuggers was more than double the rise exhibited by the huggers.

Heart Rate

Heart rates increased by an average of 5 beats/min among huggers.

Heart rates increased by an average of 10 beats/min among nonhuggers.


Although these changes in blood pressure and heart rate were found in both genders, the magnitude of the changes was greater in women compared with men.

The above study clearly shows the physical calming effect hugging has on a couple. We also know that happens as the pleasure hormone oxytocin level is raised when couples hug and norepinephrine is elevated when stress is present and that raises heart rate and blood pressure. Hug your mate in the morning to better defeat stress during the day! Keep your significant other more healthy - BETTER HEALTH THROUGH HUGGING!

Study Two:

This study involved 76 adults (38 couples) who were married or in a long-term partner relationship. Each had their level of oxytocin taken. The spouses/partners who described their relationship “happy” had significant higher levels of oxytocin than the spouses/partners who described themselves as “unhappy”.

Each couple spoke privately together for 5 minutes about some happening that drew them closer together, then they watched a romantic video and hugged each other. During the hugging, women had a higher level of oxytocin and lower level of norepinephrine and lower blood pressure compared to men. Dr. Grewen believes oxytocin causes physiologic changes that help protect a woman’s heart and their “nesting” tendency benefits their mate and children and themselves.

The conclusions we can gather from this study is, couples who are happy with each other have a physical health advantage due to higher levels of oxytocin and feel pleasure more often. Every husband can give his wife/partner better health by hugging his wife/partner often to raise her oxytocin level as it rises higher with her than him. (I would add there is likely to be more bedroom activity if hugs are given freely during the day as oxytocin is a powerful attitude adjuster).

Hugging is free, and the healthy physical effects are powerful - add this aid to your long-term storage for emergencies and practice often now.


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