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Self-soothing touch and being hugged reduce cortisol responses to stress... , 2021, Dreisoernera et al

Discussion in 'Other health news and research' started by Anna H, Nov 29, 2021.

  1. Anna H

    Anna H Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Self-soothing touch and being hugged reduce cortisol responses to stress: A randomized controlled trial on stress, physical touch, and social identity
    Aljoscha Dreisoernera,*, Nina M. Junkera, Wolff Schlotza,b, Julia Heimricha, Svenja Bloemekec, Beate Ditzend, Rolf van Dicka


    Abstract
    Background
    Being touched by others improves stress coping. However, when touch from others is unavailable, feels uncomfortable, or is not considered to be safe (as in the COVID-19 pandemic), self-touch gestures, like placing a hand on the heart, may provide an alternative way to experience less strain.

    Methods and materials
    In this study, 159 healthy participants (96 women, 62 men, and 1 non-binary person), aged 18–35 years, were exposed to a standardized psychosocial stressor (Trier Social Stress Test) to investigate whether self-soothing touch or receiving a hug from others has a buffering effect on their stress responses. In addition, the study explored whether the effectiveness of these interventions is moderated by participants' assignment to a “personal” or “social” identity condition. Participants provided salivary cortisol samples, wore an ECG to record their heart rate, and completed self-report measures on stress-related subjective-emotional states during the study.

    Results
    For cortisol, mixed-effects regression models with Touch and Identity as between-subject factors and Time as the within-subject factor yielded a significant main effect for touch and a significant interaction of Touch x Time indicating that cortisol levels differed between the experimental touch interventions. Post-hoc contrast tests showed that participants in both touch conditions had lower cortisol levels after the stressor than those in the control conditions. Heart rates and self-reported measures of stress neither differed across touch nor identity conditions. The three-way interaction for Touch x Identity x Time was non-significant for either outcome measure.

    Discussion
    These results are in line with previous work indicating that physical touch has protective effects on physiological stress responses but not necessarily on self-reported stress and suggest that self-soothing touch and receiving hugs are simple and yet potentially powerful means for buffering individuals' resilience against stress.



    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666497621000655
     
  2. Mithriel

    Mithriel Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Never sure about this sort of research but we instinctively stroke and hug people in distress. Babies stop crying when they are held so there must be a feedback from the skin to the sympathetic nervous system.

    Rocking is also soothing so I do not know why they did not include that in the study.
     
  3. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    Not if it causes motion sickness!
     
  4. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Hasn't this been known since we hauled ourselves out of the oceans a while ago?

    Surely it's basic mammalian physiology, known by every thing, no matter their education, experience or age.
     
  5. alktipping

    alktipping Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    i think for adults at least it is the display of empathy/kindness that influences the stress response.
     
    Missense, Peter Trewhitt and Anna H like this.
  6. shak8

    shak8 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I felt safe until last week when my sister insisted on hugging everyone (she must derive some cortisol lowering benefit).

    We were masked (N95s and outdoors) but still...bringing your face in toward one another, doesn't that defeat the distance/masking benefit?

    Hugging a toddler, now that is stress-busting, and so fresh.

    My childhood memories of politely having to hug older family friends, ugh, have tainted my desire to hug adults. I guess there is some small benefit to me, maybe.
     
  7. Anna H

    Anna H Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I was thinking about how many ME - patients live alone and are isolated (like me) or can't tolerate another person's touch.
    It might not be the most necessary research to do and we already know instinctively that touch is soothing, but I thought it was interesting that there were objective measures that soothing self-touch have effects on a physiological level.
    But maybe that's been researched before , I don't know.

    I do a lot of self-compassion practices and other practices that includes soothing self-touch for self care and to cope with severe ME and bouts of PTSD. The takeaway I think is that it's something one can do intentionally to increase feelings of safety and reduce feelings of stress.

    For a psychological study the research design looks pretty ok - both control group and objective outcomes. So it can be done!;)
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2021
  8. Anna H

    Anna H Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    :laugh: Yeah, it can definitely have the opposite effect if you don't want to hug someone. I cringe when people make their kids hug people when they clearly aren't comfortable doing that, it can feel like such a violation of boundaries to a child.
    Eeeh, hugging with masks..??
    Your sister could probably have use for some soothing self-touch on those occasions :)
     
  9. Milo

    Milo Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Hello?…. Tap tap… hello out there, scientists… can you please focus on curing diseases instead of this kind of research? I’ve just about had enough.
     
    alktipping, rvallee, EzzieD and 5 others like this.

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