A happily married woman gets stress-relief by just holding her husband's hand, says a study. This is indeed great news to people who are worried that the institution of marriage is losing ground.
A new study conducted by James Coan, a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia, finds that women in a threatening situation show signs of immediate relief when holding their husband's hand and this has been observed in brain scans. The details of this study were published in the December 2006 issue of Psychological Science.
The researchers, who conducted the study, designed a functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and selected 16 married women for observation, and subjected them to the threat of a very mild electric shock. They were asked to hold by turns their husband's hand, the hand of a stranger (man) or nobody.
'This is the first study of the neurological reactions to human touch in a threatening situation, and the first study to measure how the brain facilitates the health-enhancing properties of close social relationships,' said study author James Coan, a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia Tuesday.
Coan found that when the women held their spouse's hand the MRI scans showed a large decrease in the brain response to threat, and a limited decrease when holding a stranger's hand.
The largest decrease in threat response was found in women who said their marriages were of the highest quality.
We've known for decade that being in a good, committed relationship makes wounds heal faster, makes you sick less often and even live longer,' Coan said.
'But the main point of this study is that no one had been able to quantify the mental benefits of a close relationship in terms of improved health,' he added He plans to expand on his work next year on less happy couples, gay and lesbians.