“Shocking” new research confirms friendships are key to good health

University of Virginia researchers have for the first time revealed brain imaging evidence that supports what experts have long hypothesized: that people with strong relationships report better general health than those who do not.

Researchers in professor James Coan’s clinical psychology lab zeroed in on the hypothalamus, which regulates stress hormones, to reveal how the brain responds differently to the threat of electrical shock when a trusted loved one is near. “What we found was that the less active your hypothalamus was when you are under threat of electric shock in the brain scanner while you are holding the hand of a relational partner, the better general health you report,” Coan said.


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