I don’t know about you, but if I come across someone who’s a coughing, sneezing, snot-ridden mess, the last thing I want to do is embrace them. But apparently that’s really what I should do. Researchers have found the cure for the common cold: hugs. New York‘s Melissa Dahl reports that Carnegie-Mellon University psychologists investigated the link between strong social support and the ability to fight off infection. “We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses,” said Sheldon Cohen. “We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety.”
The team exposed 400 volunteers to the common cold and monitored them. “Perceived social support reduced the risk of infection associated with experiencing conflicts. Hugs were responsible for one-third of the protective effect of social support. Among infected participants, greater perceived social support and more frequent hugs both resulted in less severe illness symptoms whether or not they experienced conflicts.” So there. Put away the mustard poultice and the nasal spray and go give someone a hug.