Wearing your partner's jumper will lower your stress levels, new study says
One of the most underrated pleasures of being in a relationship is that you get to share your life with somebody. I don't necessarily mean in the spiritual, financial or even *ahem* carnal way, but more in the "random junk you can pawn off on another person" kind of way.
Not a big eater? If your partner is like a food vacuum, then that helps quite a bit, doesn't it? And when you're over at theirs and you don't feel like putting on all of your clothes, you can just wear theirs!
My ex-girlfriend banned me from wearing her sweaters because they were a teeny bit stretched (it would have shrunk again in the wash, honest!), but maybe if she knew how it helps with your mental health, she'd have let me borrow a few more.
That's the result of a study from the University of British Columbia in Canada, which looked at 96 women in loving relationships. When they smelled the sweater of their partner, they immediately chilled out. But let's get into the science of it.
Here's how it went down. Researchers at UBC recruited 96 happy couples, and got the men in the relationship to wear a clean T-shirt for 24 hours. That was enough time for the shirt to pick up their scent, and that scent was frozen so it stayed right where it was.
Then, the women of the couples were up (women tend to have a better sense of smell). They smelled a top at random which was either unworn or soaked in a little l'eau de boyfriend (but they weren't to know which), and then carried out a quick test, which involved a mental health test as well as a mock job interview, all while their cortisol (stress hormone) levels were measured.
The results, as you've probably guessed by now, are hard to dispute: women who had smelled their partner's shirt beforehand were in zen mode both before and after the stress test. Not only that, but their cortisol levels were way lower than those who had that new shirt smell lingering in their nostrils.
And it got worse if the women smelled a stranger's shirt; they had higher levels of cortisol than anybody else. Lead study author Marlise Hofer says that this down to a primal distrust of strangers, especially male strangers.
"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 in a statement. "This could happen without us being fully aware of it," she added, before getting into the nitty-gritty of the results.
"Many people wear their partner's shirt or sleep on their partner's side of the bed when their partner is away, but may not realize why they engage in these behaviors. Our findings suggest that a partner's scent alone, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress."
So, how can you apply this to your own lives, folks? Senior study author Frances Chen, an assistant professor in the UBC Department of Psychology, has an idea. "Our research suggests that something as simple as taking an article of clothing that was worn by your loved one could help lower stress levels when you're far from home."
Awww. Isn't that sweet?