A study by Columbia University has discovered that the aroma of our partner or of a known being and akin to us can help reduce stress levels.
According to research carried out in the project, women feel calmer after being exposed to the smell of their male partner and against, their levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) increase when facing the smell of a stranger.
The tests were performed with a total of 96 couples of the opposite sex. The men were given a new shirt to be impregnated with their natural aroma for 24 hours, without “contaminating” them with other scents such as colognes, creams, tobacco or food. These garments were subsequently frozen for preservation. The women, on the other hand, were responsible for smell them and differentiate them, since their sense of smell is more developed than that of men.
Marlise Hofer, lead author of the study and psychologist, says that “many people wear their partner’s shirt or sleep on their partner’s side when they are not in. But, they may not realize why they are engaging in these behaviors. They suggest that the scent of a partner alone, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress.”
The volunteers of the experiment were randomly assigned to smell these garments. The shirts could be totally new, worn by your partner or by another of the subjects who underwent the test.
Without knowing which one was given to each, they went through three different tests: a simulated interview, a mathematical test and a saliva sample to measure their cortisol levels. Finally, they underwent a test of questions about their level of stress in each of these activities.
They found that women who had smelled their partner’s shirt felt less stressed, both before and after the stress test. Those who smelled their partner’s shirt and also correctly identified the smell also had lower levels of cortisol, suggesting that the benefits of reducing the couple’s aroma stress are stronger when women know what they are smelling . In contrast, women who had smelled the scent of a stranger had higher levels of this hormone throughout the stress measurement test.
A phenomenon related to evolution
The authors of the project speculate that evolutionary factors could influence why an unknown scent affects our cortisol levels.
“From an early age, humans fear strangers, especially unknown men, so it’s possible that an unfamiliar masculine scent triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response that leads to an increase in cortisol, “explains Hofer. He adds, in addition, that “this could happen without us being fully aware of it”.
Frances Chen, another of the study’s lead authors and a professor at Columbia University, has said the findings could have practical implications for helping people cope with stressful situations when they’re away from their loved ones.
According to her, “with globalization, people travel more and more through work and move to new cities.” Our research suggests that something as simple as wearing a garment worn by your loved one could help reduce stress levels when he is away from home.”