hug, hugging
Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University in US found that hugs were an effective form of social support, which helped protect people at risk from infections.Jesslee Cuizon/Flickr

A new study says that hugging can fight off stress and infections caused by it.

Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University in the US found that hugs were an effective form of social support, which helped protect people at risk from infections.

Sheldon Cohen and colleagues based their study primarily on the theory that people who are continuously troubled with conflicts are less capable of fighting cold viruses. They said that social support has been known to prevent the health issues caused by stress.

As part of the study, 404 individuals completed questionnaire on social support and interpersonal conflicts. The researchers conducted telephone interviews with participants on 14 consecutive days to talk about hugs and its importance.

The other part of the study included exposing the participants to a common cold virus and watching their health.

People, who received greater social support, mainly in the form of hugs, showed better resistance to infections than participants who had lower social support.

Among those who were infected, illness symptoms became mild with an improvement in perceived social support and on receiving more frequent hugs.

"This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress," Cohen said in a news release. "The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioral indicator of support and intimacy. Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection."

The study reported in journal Psychological Science, is important as too much stress has been known to invite several problems including more headaches, over-eating, Alzheimer's disease and male infertility. Research in the past has shown mindfulness meditation, walking or cycling to work as some effective methods to fight stress.