Human affection exchange: XIII. Affectionate communication accelerates neuroendocrine stress recovery

Health Commun. 2007;22(2):123-32. doi: 10.1080/10410230701454015.


Contemporary theory in interpersonal communication and health psychology supports the prediction that engaging in affectionate behavior within established relationships has a direct effect on the alleviation of stress symptoms following exposure to an acute stressor. Participants in this study were exposed to a series of standard laboratory stressors and were subsequently assigned either to an experimental group or to 1 of 2 control groups. Those in the experimental group were instructed to write a letter to a loved one in which they expressed their feelings of affection for that person. Those in 1 control group thought about a loved one but did not engage in any communicative behavior, and those in the other control group simply sat quietly. All 3 conditions were compared with respect to their levels of salivary free cortisol, an adrenal steroid hormone that is instrumental in the body's neuroendocrine stress response. Results indicated that, compared to the control groups, those in the experimental group experienced accelerated cortisol recovery following exposure to the acute stressors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Love
  • Male
  • Neurosecretory Systems / immunology*
  • Southwestern United States
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology


  • Hydrocortisone