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The Surprising Benefits of Kissing

New research finds major advantages for regular smoochers.

Affectionate communication—including, of course, kissing—has long been regarded as important and productive.

Such affection has long been considered one of three fundamental human needs (Schutz, 1958). My own work has documented that affectionate communication is indicative of relational commitment and satisfaction (Horan & Booth-Butterfield, 2010) and helps us understand responses to partner transgressions (Horan, 2012). Kory Floyd, of Arizona State, has programmatically studied, and revealed the physiological benefits of affectionate communication.

One such study, focused on romantic partner kissing, will be reviewed here. The findings make a surprising case for more kissing between partners.

What Kissing Does for Us

Floyd and his colleagues wanted to understand how increases in the frequency with which romantic partners kissed related to their general indicators of stress and well-being. To that end, they studied couples, both married and dating, who lived together full-time. Over a six-week period, half the couples were instructed: “Over the next 6 weeks, we would like you and your spouse or romantic partner to kiss more frequently than you normally do. At first, you might set aside a few minutes each day specifically for kissing. Over time, you will probably find that it becomes a more routine part of how you interact. The point is for the two of you to kiss each other more often and for longer periods of time than you typically do right now."

Although a number of factors were examined, key differences were seen among the study's participants with regard to relationship satisfaction, stress, and cholesterol levels. Specifically, over the six-week period, individuals who increased their frequency of kissing reported both lower levels of stress and higher levels of relationship satisfaction. And importantly, their physiological assessments of cholesterol, via blood draws, also decreased.

The results further underscore the importance of kissing in relationships. The decrease in cholesterol levels was an especially significant finding given the health complications associated with cholesterol. In fact, healthcare providers regularly recommend that people work to decrease cholesterol levels through diet and exercise. Findings here suggest that an additional—and potentially more fun—behavior, in the form of kissing, might be added to that list.

The next time you’re stressed, consider making some time for your partner for a potentially productive make-out session.

Follow me on Twitter @therealdrsean for relationship commentary/links, complaints about mass transit, and support for WVU Athletics. Continue to follow this blog for future entries about deception, online dating, using affection to lie, workplace romance, and other issues that make obtaining and retaining a mate oh so interesting.

Floyd, K., Boren, J. P., Hannawa, A. F., Hesse, C., McEwan, B., & Veksler, A. E. (2009). Kissing in martial and cohabiting relationships: Effects on blood lipids, stress, and relationship satisfaction. Western Journal of Communication, 73, 113-133. doi: 10.1080/10570310902856071

Horan, S. M. (2012). Affection exchange theory and perceptions of relational transgressions. Western Journal of Communication, 76, 109-126. doi: 10.1080/10570314.2011.651548

Horan, S. M., & Booth-Butterfield, M. (2010). Investing in affection: An investigation of affection exchange theory and relational qualities. Communication Quarterly, 58, 394-413. doi: 10.1080/01463373.2010.524876

Schutz, W. (1958). FIRO: A three-dimensional theory of interpersonal behavior. New York: Rinehart.

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