U.S. scientists believe hearing mother down the line produces the same stress-busting effect on her daughter as physical contact such as a hug or a loving arm round the shoulder.
In a study that will send phone companies into their own comfort zone, researchers found mothers’ calls released similar levels of the social bonding hormone oxytocin in girls as when they were in close proximity. Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the scientists report how they deliberately raised the stress levels of 61 girls aged seven to 12. The children had to make an impromptu speech and solve maths problems in front of strangers. This sent their hearts racing and levels of stress hormone cortisol higher.
The girls were then divided into three groups, one comforted by physical contact with their mothers, another by phone calls from their mothers and a third by watching a film deemed emotionally neutral, the March of the Penguins.
Oxytocin rose to similar levels in the first two groups and did not increase in the third, saliva and urine tests revealed. As this hormone’s presence grew, cortisol faded.
Leslie Seltzer, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the research, said: “The children who got to interact with their mothers had virtually the same hormonal response, whether they interacted in person or over the phone.
“It was understood that oxytocin release in the context of social bonding usually required physical contact. But it’s clear from these results that a mother’s voice can have the same effect as a hug, even if they’re not standing there.”
I like this because a real hug from my Mom is a very rare thing.
I only see her every two years, not nearly often enough, because we live a six hour flight away from one another, are on tight budgets and both live in apartments too small to offer a comfortable place to sleep for a week, adding even more cost to each visit.
On my worst days, though, I know I can find comfort with a quick call to her. Many men and women grow up taking this for granted. But it’s something I especially appreciate after a huge brain tumor was removed from her left frontal lobe in August 2002. It had, the neurosurgeon told me, transformed her personality for a long time, possibly decades, as it grew, affecting her temper and levels of aggression because of its location.
I like having a nice Mom now.
Do you call yours for comfort? (If not, who?)