Report: Mom’s voice relieves stress as much as her touch

Just hearing mom’s voice might be enough to reduce stress, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It’s clear from these results that a mother’s voice can have the same effect as a hug, even if they’re not standing there, said Leslie Seltzer, lead researcher and a biological anthropologist.

The study, published in the May edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, tested hormonal levels in girls aged 7 to 12.

The girls were asked to give an impromptu speech and complete a series of math problems in front of a group of strangers. As a result, their heart rates quickened and their body’s level of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, rose.

After experiencing stress, the girls were divided into three groups: one received hugs from their mothers; the second spoke to their mothers on the phone, and the final group was left to watch the feel-good movie, “March of the Penguins.”

The girls who watched the movie showed no increase in oxytocin, a hormone strongly associated with emotional bonding, nor signs of stress relief. Their cortisol levels were still elevated up to an hour after the stress-inducing challenges, researchers reported.

The levels of cortisol in the girls who interacted either physically or vocally with their mothers subsided and their levels of oxytocin, often called the “love hormone,” rose.

“The children who got to interact with their mothers had virtually the same hormonal response, whether they interacted in person or over the phone,” Seltzer said.

And both of these groups showed lasting effects of stress relief.

The girls who interacted with their mothers in some way showed elevated levels of oxytocin for long periods of time, said Seth Pollak, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin and co-author of the study. “By the time the children go home, they’re still enjoying the benefits of this relief and their cortisol levels are still low.”

Prior to the study, it was believed that, in a social context, physical contact was required to release oxytocin, Seltzer said.

But, it is now clear that oxytocin reduces stress in females after both types of contact and, in doing so may strengthen the bond between mother and daughter, she said.

Looking forward, Seltzer will examine oxytocin releases as a result of other methods of communication, such as text messaging.

Dr. Julie Braungart-Rieker, professor of Psychology at Notre Dame, who was not involved in the study, said further studies should expand the demographics for the widespread implications to be fully understood. “It also kind of depends on the kid. Some really like touch and other kids are more independent and don’t seem to require that much.”

If you’ve had a long day, one phone call to mom may help make you feel better.

Just hearing mom’s voice might be enough to reduce stress, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It’s clear from these results that a mother’s voice can have the same effect as a hug, even if they’re not standing there, says Leslie Seltzer, lead researcher and a biological anthropologist.

The study, published in the May edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, tested hormonal levels in girls aged 7 to 12.

The girls were asked to give an impromptu speech and complete a series of math problems in front of a group of strangers. As a result, their heart rates quickened and their body’s level of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, rose.

After experiencing stress, the girls were divided into three groups: one received hugs from their mothers; the second spoke to their mothers on the phone, and the final group was left to watch the feel-good movie, “March of the Penguins.”

The girls who watched the movie showed no increase in oxytocin, a hormone strongly associated with emotional bonding, nor signs of stress relief. Their cortisol levels were still elevated up to an hour after the stress-inducing challenges, researchers reported.

The levels of cortisol in the girls who interacted either physically or vocally with their mothers subsided and their levels of oxytocin, often called the “love hormone,” rose.

“The children who got to interact with their mothers had virtually the same hormonal response, whether they interacted in person or over the phone,” Seltzer says.

And both of these groups showed lasting effects of stress relief.

The girls who interacted with their mothers in some way showed elevated levels of oxytocin for long periods of time, says Seth Pollak, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin and co-author of the study. “By the time the children go home, they’re still enjoying the benefits of this relief and their cortisol levels are still low.”

Prior to the study, it was believed that, in a social context, physical contact was required to release oxytocin, Seltzer says.

But, it is now clear that oxytocin reduces stress in females after both types of contact and, in doing so may strengthen the bond between mother and daughter, she says.

Looking forward, Seltzer will examine oxytocin releases as a result of other methods of communication, such as text messaging.

Dr. Julie Braungart-Rieker, professor of psychology at Notre Dame, who was not involved in the study, says further studies should expand the demographics for the widespread implications to be fully understood. “It also kind of depends on the kid. Some really like touch and other kids are more independent and don’t seem to require that much.”

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