New United States research has found that being hugged may help reduce an increase in negative emotions that usually follows after experiencing conflict with others.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University recruited 404 adult men and women and interviewed them every night for 14 consecutive days, asking about their daily conflicts, daily hugs, and their positive and negative moods.
Most individuals reported experiencing conflict on at least one day of the study and receiving a hug on at least one day during the study.
The findings, published online in the journal PLOS ONE, suggested that receiving a hug on a day when a participant also experienced conflict with someone was associated with a smaller decrease in positive emotions and a smaller increase in negative emotions.
The effect of receiving a hug also appeared to last, with those who were hugged still showing a smaller increase in negative emotions the next day. However, a hug was not associated with an increase in positive emotions the next day.
The researchers commented that although the results are correlational, they suggest that hugs may buffer against the negative changes in mood that can be brought on by conflict and may be a simple yet effective method of providing support to both men and women experiencing distress as a result of conflict.
Previous research has already suggested that those who engage more frequently in interpersonal touch, such as hugging or holding hands, may benefit from improved relationships with others as well as a boost in individual well-being.
However, past studies on this topic are limited as they have mainly focused on the role of touch in romantic relationships.
“This research is in its early stages. We still have questions about when, how, and for whom hugs are most helpful. However, our study suggests that consensual hugs might be useful for showing support to somebody enduring relationship conflict,” commented lead author Michael Murphy. JB