Holding Hands and Heart Health
Holding hands influences hormone levels. An article published in the journal of Alternative Therapeutic Health Medicine reported that touching stimulates the production of oxytocin, a hormone known as the “love hormone.” Oxytocin has been shown to increase feelings of trust, generosity, and compassion and decrease feelings of fear and anxiety in people. Physical contact inhibits the production of cortisol, the “stress hormone” that is involved in the fight-or-flight response and chronic stress. High levels of stress and anxiety can lead to elevated blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.
Holding hands can have a positive impact on heart health by reducing the production of stress-causing hormones and increasing the amount of anti-stress hormones. In addition, external pressure from a hug, a hand squeeze, or interlocking fingers stimulates pressure receptors on the skin that act to reduce heart rate, and therefore blood pressure. The effect of hand holding on blood pressure is not limited to people. Research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine shows that talking to pets and touching them also lowers blood pressure.
In addition to reducing stress and blood pressure, holding hands, hugging, and other forms of human contact may also help soothe pain and boost the immune system. According to Harvard Medical School, because high blood pressure is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease, these findings may help explain why people with emotional support from a spouse, partner, or friend are less likely to die from heart disease.