Reviving the practice of hugging as we emerge from physical distancing

By Dennis Archambault

Of the many seemingly odd news topics to emerge during the coronavirus pandemic, the announcement on May 10 that England would begin to allow hugging again seemed trite in the scheme of things. But when you think about it, when people talk about the many things that changed during the pandemic, one of the topics frequently mentioned is the absence of hugging (and shaking hands). So, as much of the United States gradually normalizes the question of safe hugging among vaccinated people is often discussed.

Research has shown that hugging not only is an exchange of positive energy between two people (perhaps more, in a group or team hug), it is linked to improving the strength of the immune system. In a 2015 study of the stress-buffering effects of hugging, researchers noted, that, “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, people who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection and illness-related symptoms.”

So, as we search for what will be the new normal, we might want to revive the medicinal and comforting effect of an old norm – the hug.

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.