Published: Fri, October 05, 2018
Medical | By

Hugs may buffer against deleterious consequences of interpersonal conflict

Hugs may buffer against deleterious consequences of interpersonal conflict

"Results indicated that there was an interaction between hug receipt and conflict exposure such that receiving a hug was associated with a smaller conflict-related decrease in positive affect and a smaller conflict-related increase in negative affect when assessed concurrently", the study reads.

More than 400 women and men were interviewed each night for 14 consecutive days about their conflicts, hugs received, and positive and negative feelings.

Interestingly, it did not seem to matter if the huggers were in a romantic relationship at the time of said hug - the mood-related benefits still stood.

Receiving a hug on the day of conflict was associated with improved concurrent negative and positive affect and improved next day negative affect compared to days when conflict occurred but no hug was received.

The findings appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.

Oregon Health and Science University offers tips on resolving conflict. While factors like age and gender did not show much influence on the effects of a hug, women reported a higher number of hugs than men overall.


"There is something effective in reducing conflict or the negative emotion associated with conflict by having contact with one another", says Cleveland Clinic psychologist Dr. Scott Bea. On one hand, studies have found that people who perceive their social networks to be loving and supportive tend to fare better under stress.

Murphy and Stratyner agreed that people can likely tell the difference between a heartfelt hug and a more perfunctory one. But, paradoxically, other studies have found that when people actually receive social support from friends or family members, it can make matters worse.

There's also evidence that the physical pressure of a hug, even simulated by heavy, weighted blankets, can help ease anxiety in people with autism, as well as children who have trouble focusing in school.

According to Dr Michael Murphy, of Carnegie Mellon University, non-sexual interpersonal touch is emerging as an important topic in the study of adult social relationships.

"Hugs, at least among close others, might be a simple, straightforward, effective way to show support to someone you care about who is experiencing conflict with a relationship in their life", Murphy concluded.

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