Psychosomatic Medicine

November-December 2008 – Volume 70 – Issue 9 – p 976-985
doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e318187aef7
Holt-Lunstad, Julianne PhD; Birmingham, Wendy A. BS; Light, Kathleen C. PhD


Objective: To investigate whether a support intervention (warm touch enhancement) influences physiological stress systems that are linked to important health outcomes. Growing evidence points to a protective effect of social and emotional support on both morbidity and mortality.

Methods: In this study, 34 healthy married couples (n = 68), aged 20 to 39 years (mean = 25.2 years), were randomly assigned to a “behavior monitoring” control group or participated in a 4-week intervention study in which clinic levels of plasma oxytocin, 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure, and salivary cortisol and alpha amylase were obtained pre and post intervention, at the same time salivary oxytocin was taken at home during weeks 1 and 4.

Results: Salivary oxytocin was enhanced both early and late in the intervention group and alpha amylase was reduced at post treatment in intervention group husbands and wives relative to controls. Husbands in the intervention group had significantly lower post treatment 24-hour systolic blood pressure than the control group.

Conclusion: Increasing warm touch among couples has a beneficial influence on multiple stress-sensitive systems.