Healing Power Of Touch

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

February 17, 2006

There may be some truth in the phrase-- the healing power of touch-- at least that's what one UVa neuroscientist is saying. A relationship that includes touch really does matter, especially with women.

We always talk about the power of touch, but a UVa professor is actually finding some truth to it and he's learning that happy relationships have actual health benefits.

"There's pretty good evidence now that even a simple gesture like hand holding can actually buffer you against illness and discomfort, suffering," said James Coan of UVa's Department of Neuroscience.

This UVa researcher is finding big-picture that happy relationships can also lower the risk of infection and speed-up recovery from injury.

"Being socially isolated is not thought of being more of a risk factor for any kind of health problem than cigarette smoking," said Coan.

Researchers monitored women's brains is stressful situation and found that when females are touching their spouse they are more relaxed.

"You're sort of in a sense, allowing your spouse to assist you in dealing with the threat and that shows up in how your brain responds. You don't have to do it all alone," said Coan.

"When I go to a scary movie, I can't go alone. I have to have somebody there to bury my head into his shoulder so I don't get scared. I don't know maybe that would be the equivalent of needing comfort during tense times," said student Marissa Mosk.

Another research project found that males with congestive heart failure in a high quality relationship lived much longer.

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