A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology seems to suggest that smelling a man’s unique body odor can help lower feelings of anxiety and decrease stress.
“Many people wear their partner’s shirt or sleep on their partner’s side of the bed when their partner is away, but may not realize why they engage in these behaviors. Our findings suggest that a partner’s scent alone, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress.” said Marlise Hofer, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in the UBC department of psychology.
For the study, investigators recruited 96 couples. Men were given a clean T-shirt to wear for a 24-hour period. They were also told not to wear deodorant or any scented body products. Finally, participants were informed that smoking, and eating certain foods could affect their scent. After the 24-hour period, the T-shirts were then frozen to preserve their man-scent.
The female participants were randomly assigned to sniff a T-shirt that was either unworn, or had been worn by their partner or a stranger. They were not informed which one they had been given..As part of the experiment, the women underwent a stress test that involved a pretend job interview and a mental math task. They also answered questions about their stress levels and provided saliva samples used to measure cortisol levels.
The researchers asked women to act as the sniffers because they tend to have a better sense of smell than guys. They discovered that women who had sniffed their partner’s shirt felt less stressed both before and after the stress test. Persons who both sniffed their partner’s shirt and also correctly identified the scent also had lower levels of cortisol. This suggests that the stress-reducing benefits of a partner’s man-scent are strongest when the person knows what they are smelling. The researchers suggest that evolutionary factors could influence why the stranger’s scent affected cortisol levels.
“From a young age, humans fear strangers, especially strange males, so it is possible that a strange male scent triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response that leads to elevated cortisol,” said Hofer. “This could happen without us being fully aware of it.”
Frances Chen, a study author and assistant professor in the UBC department of psychology, said the findings may have practical implications to help folks cope with stressful situations when they’re away from loved ones. With globalization, people are increasingly traveling for work and moving to new cities. Our research suggests that something as simple as taking an article of clothing that was worn by your loved one could help lower stress levels when you’re far from home.”
Source: American Psychological Association.