We’ve all known someone we’d characterize as highly affectionate. Indeed, many of us—myself included—would describe ourselves that way. That doesn’t mean we are affectionate with every person or in every situation, but in the right time and place, we are inclined to express our feelings of love and fondness for others. Some of us grew up in touchy-feely families, whereas others of us acquired our affectionate nature in adulthood. Regardless, however, research shows that we share several characteristics that distinguish us from our less-affectionate counterparts.
As a group, highly affectionate people:
1. Are happier and have higher self-esteem.
2. Experience less susceptibility to depression.
3. Have lower average blood sugar and lower resting blood pressure.
4. Are more comfortable with closeness and less fearful of intimacy.
5. Have healthier 24-hour cortisol rhythms (which aid the stress response).
6. Are less likely to experience loneliness and social isolation.
7. Have a more positive body image.
8. Are more likely to be in romantic relationships (and are more satisfied in those relationships).
9. Have more effective natural killer cells in their immune systems.
10. Recover more quickly from stressful experiences.
Most of these results are correlational, which means we can’t conclude that being affectionate necessarily causes these outcomes. Perhaps it does, but perhaps being affectionate and being physically and mentally healthy are both the products of some other factor. Nonetheless, it’s clear that highly affectionate people enjoy some advantages. They’re also more vulnerable to certain risks—tune in to my next posting for a discussion of the “dark side” of affection.
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