Simple Stress Reduction

For women, the scent of their romantic partner’s shirt can help ease stress – while the scent of a stranger’s garment seems to have the opposite effect. Researchers at Canada’s University of British Columbia gave the shirt sniff test to 96 opposite sex couples. First, they gave the men a clean T-shirt to wear for 24 hours and told them not to use deodorant or any type of scented product, not to smoke, and to refrain from eating specific foods that can affect body odor. The researchers randomly assigned the women to smell a T-shirt that was unworn, a shirt that had been worn by their partner, or one that had been worn by a stranger. The women were then given stress tests and were asked to provide saliva samples, which were analyzed for levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The experiment showed that women who smelled their partner’s shirt were less stressed before and after the stress test and had lower cortisol levels while levels of these hormones rose among women who smelled a stranger’s shirt. The researchers suggested that their findings have practical implications for dealing with the stress of traveling: just pack an article of clothing worn by your partner to help you cope while away from home.

Marlise K. Hofer et al, “Olfactory cues from romantic partners and strangers influence women’s responses to stress.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, January 2018, DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000110.

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