January 21st is an annually recognised ‘National Hugging day’ – so why are hugs so good for you?


Whether you are a natural ‘hugger’ or just have one or two people you like to hug, we can all agree that a hug is generally supportive and de-stressing. As it turns out, many studies have been conducted on the power of the hug and human contact. As we lacked much of this during the Covid-19 pandemic when we were kept apart from loved ones, many found they were craving this more than normal, in fact why hugs are so effective is all to do with our sense of touch; touch consists of two different nerve systems and the second system of ‘slow touch’ has developed into “cuddle nerves”. This consists of a group of c-tactile afferents which process the emotions surrounding touch.


Hugs help reduce stress as they cause us to release the hormone oxytocin which helps equip us better in situations where we are increasingly anxious or need to have a fast reaction, a study done by the Association of Psychological Science suggests that the ability of hugs to lower stress actually helps boost our immune system as elevated anxiety makes us more susceptible to pathogens – as well as people who felt more ‘socially supported’ by the hugs exhibited less severe cold symptoms.

Another benefit of hugs is that they seem to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, the University of North Carolina did a small investigation into this and they let 59 women talk about their partner, after the chat a few women hugged their partner for about twenty seconds and those who had left without a hug had an increased heart rate and blood pressure – this is believed to be due to the oxytocin that the women who received hugs got. 


Finally, hugs help you to communicate non-verbally and can ease sadness on days where we feel isolated. So now you know the science behind why a hug with those closest to you feels comforting, and after almost two years of being contact deprived you never know how much you might be needing that hug.