Janet A Amico University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh | United States
Biol Psychol 2005 Apr 29;69(1):5-21. Epub 2004 Dec 29.
Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, CB 7175 Medical Building A, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7175, USA.
In animals, ventral stroking for >5 days increases oxytocin (OT) activity and decreases blood pressure (BP), but related human studies are few. Thus, relationships between self-reported frequency of partner hugs, plasma OT and BP levels were examined in 59 premenopausal women before and after warm contact with their husbands/partners ending with hugs. Higher baseline OT before partner contact was associated with lower BP and heart rate, and met criteria to be a partial mediator of the lower resting BP shown by women reporting more frequent hugs (P<0.05). OT levels during post-contact stress were unrelated to hugs or BP. Menstrual cycle phase did not influence any OT measure. Thus, frequent hugs between spouses/partners are associated with lower BP and higher OT levels in premenopausal women; OT-mediated reduction in central adrenergic activity and peripheral effects of OT on the heart and vasculature are pathways to examine in future research.