A Phone Call May Be As Effective As a HugAt least when it comes to your body’s physiological responses. If you’re a young girl.

So says a new study that studied young girls’ release of the stress hormone cortisol as well as their levels of the hormone oxytocin — thought to be important in social bonding — after a stressful public presentation. One group of girls talked to their mom on the telephone, another talked to them in person and received a hug, and a third group watched a neutral movie.

The two groups who received mom-contact — whether it was by telephone or in-person — both had much lower levels of the stress hormone than the group that had no mom contact. Both groups also had significantly more of the bonding hormone, oxytocin.

The upshot? A simple phone call to mom — if you’re a young girl ages 7 to 12 years old at least — might help reduce your stress levels and make you feel better.

The most important finding is not that a phone call to mom helps (most people would’ve suspected as much, if you have a positive relationship with your mom). It’s that a phone call may be just as effective as a physical hug or other physical contact. This is the new finding that’s of significance in this research and it will be interesting to see how far and whether such a finding translates into other forms of technology — such as texting or messages on a social network like Facebook or Twitter.

“That a simple telephone call could have this physiological effect on oxytocin is really exciting,” noted Seth Pollak, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Child Emotion Lab.

“For years I’ve seen students leaving exams and the first thing they do is pull out their cell phone and make a call,” Pollak said. “I used to think, ‘How could those over-attentive, helicopter parents encourage that?’ But now? Maybe it’s a quick and dirty way to feel better. It’s not pop psychology or psychobabble.”

“It was understood that oxytocin release in the context of social bonding usually required physical contact,” Leslie Seltzer, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Child Emotion Lab and lead author on the study.

“But 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.”

The challenge with this finding is that it was done with young girls, ages 7 to 12 years old. Who knows if the findings translate to adults. Further research will need to be conducted to determine how robust these findings may be.


Seltzer, L.J., Ziegler, T.E., & Pollak, S.D. (2010). Social vocalizations can release oxytocin in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0567



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 3 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.

    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 May 2010
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2010). A Phone Call May Be As Effective As a Hug. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/05/12/a-phone-call-may-be-as-effective-as-a-hug/


Recent Comments
  • Josh: Great article, I could really use active conditioning on learning to control my emotions (I am known as a...
  • brokeandblue: I am someone that prides myself on being non-judgemental. At all. In fact I get complimented on this,...
  • Cathy Taughinbaugh: This is a wonderful list of blogs, which are so helpful to those suffering from anxiety. I wanted...
  • Parsnip: Interesting article, the logic fits in well with what happens. I think that swearing also reduces...
  • MomNxwife: I agree with what you say in this article; however, after living with loved ones who suffer with bi-polar...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 8452
Join Us Now!