Stressful situations can often increase cortisol – a hormone that is generally produced during times of stress and anxiety. Chronic stress can also activate sympathetic nervous system reactions – the system that gets activated and causes the fight or flight response – which can lead to increases in blood pressure and higher cholesterol levels. To this end, researchers have been interested in whether interpersonal behaviors, such as kissing, may have benefits to help alleviate problems of stress that many of us face.
Fifty-two participants who were married or living with their partners took part in a recent study about kissing (Floyd, et al., 2009). Half of the participants were randomly assigned to the experimental group in which they were instructed to “kiss each other more often and for longer periods of time than you typically do right now.” The other half were not given any special instructions.
After six weeks, the results showed that those who kissed their partners more had lower stress, a decrease in cholesterol, and higher relationship satisfaction. Researchers explained that exchanging affectionate communication with your partner can help produce calm and reassuring feelings resulting in decreased stress. Combined with other research, this literature shows that touch and physical affection in general can help decrease responses to stressful situations (e.g., Coan, Schaefer, & Davidson, 2006). So the next time you are feeling stressed out, try kissing your partner…it may help to improve your health as well as your relationship.
Coan, J., Schaefer, H., & Davidson, R. (2006) Lending a Hand: Social Regulation of the Neural Response to Threat. Psychological Science, 17(12), 1032-1039. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01832.x
Floyd, K., Boren, J., Hannawa, A., Hesse, C., McEwan, B., & Veksler, A. (2009) Kissing in Marital and Cohabiting Relationships: Effects on Blood Lipids, Stress, and Relationship Satisfaction. Western Journal of Communication, 73(2), 113-133. DOI: 10.1080/10570310902856071