Odor of The Partner has Calming Effect

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For women who feel safe in their relationship, the partner’s odor reduces measurable physical stress responses.

The body odor of the beloved partner has a calming effect, at least when the love relationship is felt safe. In a Swedish study, not only the subjective well-being of female subjects, but also the objectively measurable response of their body to stress, confirmed this positive influence of a male caregiver. Assuming a stable relationship, the man’s scent evidently conveys a sense of security for the woman, the psychologists report in the journal Physiology & Behavior. Whether the woman has a stress-relieving effect on the man due to her body odor, has not yet been investigated.

“Regular sniffing on his caregivers could potentially be beneficial to health and counteract inappropriate stress responses,” write the researchers around Anna Blomkvist of Stockholm University. For a long time underestimated human sense of smell played an important role in the development and strengthening of social bonds in infants as well as adults. Previous studies have already demonstrated a stress-relieving effect of the man on women, which came about by the fact that the respective life partner in the immediate vicinity or at least was visible. The new study was designed to examine whether the perception of familiar male body odor has the same effect and whether the relationship’s stability is important.

The 34 female heterosexual subjects were on average 23 years old and  had a love affair for at least four months – an average of 40 months. The stress trigger was a mild electric shock that was uncomfortable but not painful. The skin resistance measured by hand provided information about the strength of the physical stress response. The subjects and their partners collected scents of their body odor with cotton shirts that had been worn for three nights and then packaged separately in sealed plastic bags. A freshly washed shirt and a rose-impregnated shirt were used by the psychologists as additional sources of odor. Using the questionnaire of a standardized psychological test, they determined how women rated the safety of their partner loyalty on a scale of 1 to 7.

Each woman inhaled the smell of the four different shirts for five minutes each. During the first two minutes, five short electric shocks were administered. All women rated the electrical irritation as least unpleasant when they noticed the smell of their partner. The skin resistance measurements also showed the lowest physical stress responses, but only to those who felt safe in their love relationship. For the others, the smell of the partner caused even higher levels of stress than the other odors, despite the respondents’ statements about their feelings to the contrary. Overall, the results confirm the great importance that signals of human body odor have for close social ties, even between adults.

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