More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women

Biol Psychol. 2005 Apr;69(1):5-21. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.11.002. Epub 2004 Dec 29.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment
  • Oxytocin / blood*
  • Premenopause / physiology*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic / physiology
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Touch / physiology*


  • Receptors, Adrenergic
  • Oxytocin