As the country continues to open up after the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns, people have questions about hugging. It may seem like an odd thing for a surgeon to be concerned about. However, hugging is actually an important part of overall health and well-being, and Dr. Stong has some thoughts on the matter:
“As an MD, I believe it is largely safe to hug vaccinated people, and more people are getting vaccinated every day. For that reason, I think that customary greetings, such as hugs, will largely return once the active COVID pandemic subsides. And that’s great. Many Americans need a hug, clearly!”
It is very true that we all need hugs. Frequent hugging and hand-holding helps reduce blood pressure and thus reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke. Hugs reduce stress and most people will admit that these have been super-stressful times. Scientific researchers have found that hugging another person in support can reduce the stress in both the person being comforted and the person doing the comforting.
Dr. Stong shares further, “There is clearly a lot of enthusiasm for hugging people again. For example, I see that British actress Joanna Lumley told The Telegraph newspaper: ‘I shall be hugging literally everyone I can get my hands on. I shall snatch babies from their mothers, and lean over zimmer frames. I shall hug girls at the till, the picture framer and lads playing footie in the park. Much later obviously I shall be hugging police personnel as I am charged at the station.'”
Hugging for Health
According to some researchers, hugging can also lead to decreased depression. There is no doubt that a good hug or two helps you feel better. In one study performed at a retirement home, three or more hugs a day improved the quality of life for those residents who received them. Residents cited improvements such as sleeping better, less depression, more energy and better concentration.
“Public health officials are sending out signals that things are getting safer and that normalcy can start to return,” Dr. Stong shares further. “But we still have to contend with lots of misinformation, including from antivax groups. They are going to mislead people about what is safe and what is not safe. So please only get your information from expert sources.”
It will still take a while for things to get back to “normal.” What we are really striving for is finding the new normal and hopefully, that will include plenty of healthy hugging. When you consider that hugging may actually increase the power of the immune system, it sounds like we need a lot more hugs. They may be the key to us staying healthy!
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