Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves hugs Jace Peterson after hitting a two run home run in the top of the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 30, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Hugging may feel good, but it might have health benefits, too, study finds

Maybe Freddie Freeman is on to something. 

The Braves first baseman is a well-known hugger, and a new study concludes those hugs could have health benefits.

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In a recent paper published in PLOS One, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University concluded that a hug can have a positive effect on mood and help lower stress after a conflict.

The study talked to 404 people every night over a two-week period. Participants were asked if they experienced conflict, if they received a hug and what their mood was, among other things.

People who faced conflict and got a hug on the same day said they experienced an increase in positive feelings and a decrease in negative ones. 

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“A very simple, straightforward behavior — hugging — might be an effective way of supporting both men and women who are experiencing conflict in their relationships,” explains co-author Michael Murphy, a post-doctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon University’s Laboratory for the Study of Stress, Immunity and Disease.

The tendency to feel better held true regardless of age, gender, marital status or number of hugs a person received. 

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Murphy conceded more research needs to be done, especially to look at the relationship between hugger and hug recipient.

"The lack of specificity regarding from whom individuals received hugs also restricted our ability to identify whether hugs from specific types of social partners were more effective than those from others," he wrote.

In 2015, a similar study at Carnegie Mellon concluded that “people who experience high levels of social support and frequent hugs were protected from a higher risk of getting sick when under stress.”

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“In times of stress and conflict, that’s when support from people in your life is important,” said psychologist Sheldon Cohen, who led the 2015 study. “It may make less difference in other times in your life.”

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