Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is hugging harmful?

The New York Times today has a feature on a shocking new trend: teenagers hugging each other when they say hello. Not just best friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends, but casual acquaintances.

Schools are cracking down on all this free love. According to the article, "Schools from Hillsdale, N.J., to Bend, Ore., wary in a litigious era about sexual harassment or improper touching — or citing hallway clogging and late arrivals to class — have banned hugging or imposed a three-second rule."

Seriously? Considering the high incidence of depression, social isolation, anxiety, and stress among this generation of teens, schools should consider imposing mandatory hugs. The evidence is clear that friendly, supportive, non-sexual touch is good for you. Even a brief moment of feeling close to someone, of being socially supported and belonging, can reduce stress hormones, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improve mood.

In my generation, teenagers had to get drunk or take drugs like Ecstasy to overcome hugging inhibitions. Kudos to this generation for wanting to reach out and touch someone without chemically-induced courage.

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