LivingThe smell of your partner helps reduce stress

The smell of your partner helps reduce stress

A Columbia University study has found that the scent of our partner or someone we know and relate to can help reduce stress levels.

According to the research carried out in the project, women feel calmer after being exposed to the smell of their male partner and, on the contrary, their levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) increase when they are faced with the smell of a stranger.

The tests have been carried out with a total of 96 couples of the opposite sex. The men were given a new shirt to impregnate them with its natural aroma for 24 hours , without “contaminating” them with other smells such as colognes, creams, tobacco or food. These garments were later frozen for preservation. Women , on the other hand, were in charge of smelling and differentiating them, since their olfactory capacity is more developed than that of men .

Marlise Hofer , lead author of the study and psychologist, says that “many people wear their partner’s shirt or sleep on their partner’s side when they are away. But they may not realize why they engage in these behaviors. Our findings suggest that the scent of a partner alone , even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress . “

The volunteers in the experiment were randomly assigned to smell these garments. The shirts could be brand new, worn by your partner or by another of the test subjects.

Not knowing which one each had been given, they went through three different tests : a mock interview, a math test, and a saliva sample to measure their cortisol levels. Finally, they underwent a question test about their stress level in each of these activities.

They found that women who had smelled their partner’s shirt felt less stressed, both before and after the stress test . Those who smelled their partner’s shirt and also correctly identified the scent also had lower levels of cortisol, suggesting that the stress-reducing benefits of partner scent are strongest when women know what they are smelling . In contrast, women who had smelled the scent of a stranger had higher levels of this hormone throughout the stress measurement test.

A phenomenon related to evolution

The project authors speculate that evolutionary factors could influence why the smell of a stranger affects our cortisol levels.

“From an early age, humans fear strangers, especially unfamiliar men, so it is possible that an unfamiliar male scent triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response that leads to increased cortisol, ” explains Hofer. . It further adds that “this could happen without our being fully aware of it.”

Frances Chen , another lead author of the study and a professor at Columbia University, said the findings could have practical implications for helping people deal with stressful situations when they are away from loved ones.

According to her, “With globalization , people are increasingly traveling for work and moving to new cities. Our research suggests that something as simple as wearing an item of clothing that your loved one wore could help reduce stress levels. when you are away from home. “

Hofer, Marlise, Hanne Collins, Ashley V. Whillans, and Frances Chen. “Olfactory Cues from Romantic Partners and Strangers Moderate Women’s Responses to Stress.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 114, no. 1 (January 2018): 1–9.

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