(CBS SF) – If you find that the pressures of everyday life are mounting and your partner’s not around to comfort you, rifling through their clothes and taking a whiff might be just what you need to help you relax, according to a recently published study.
The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and the American Psychological Association, revealed that women feel more at ease when smelling their male partner’s musk on a T-shirt.
To get the results, 96 women were instructed to smell one of three different scents. One scent was that of their partner, the other the scent of a stranger, and the third a neutral scent. After, they were exposed to an acute stressor and their reactions were measured.
To ensure the scent was in fact that of their significant other, male partners were instructed “not wear deodorant or scented body products, and they couldn’t smoke or eat foods that might otherwise affect their scent.”
The T-shirts were then promptly frozen to keep the scent intact.
Here’s how the results were obtained, per The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Study:
“Perceived stress and cortisol were measured continuously throughout the study (5 and 7 times, respectively). Perceived stress was reduced in women who were exposed to their partner’s scent. This reduction was observed during stress anticipation and stress recovery. Cortisol levels were elevated in women who were exposed to a stranger’s scent. This elevation was observed throughout stress anticipation, peak stress, and stress recovery.”
“Our findings suggest that a partner’s scent alone, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress,” Marlise Hofer, the study’s lead author said in a statement, per U.S. News.
The connection between scent and memory is an oft-researched topic in the scientific community, but this study could potentially shine a new light on scent and sexual attraction; a topic scientists have also researched ad nauseum without being able to hone in on an exact reason for the connection.
The study’s authors say that in this instance, evolutionary factors could be behind the difference in stress levels based on scent.
“From a young age, humans fear strangers, especially strange males, so it is possible that a strange male scent triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response that leads to elevated cortisol,” Hofer said, per U.S. News. “This could happen without us being fully aware of it.”
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