Photo of a Loved One can Reduce Pain

We’ve been telling you about the value of support for years now – here’s more evidence. A recent UCLA study shows that holding the hand of a loved one can help reduce pain. Just looking at their picture can help too.

Close-up of two peoples hands holding each other

The study included 25 women who had been in good relationships with their boyfriends for at least six months. They received heat stimuli to the forearm. Then they reported their pain levels while holding hands with their boyfriends, while holding hands with a stranger and while holding a squeeze ball. They also received stimuli and reported pain levels while looking at pictures of their boyfriends, while looking at a picture of stranger and while looking at a picture of a chair.

The findings indicate that the boyfriends’ “presence” – whether holding their hands or just seeing their photos – reduced the participants’ pain ratings.

According to the researchers, “This changes our notion of how social support influences people. Typically, we think that in order for social support to make us feel good, it has to be the kind of support that is very responsive to our emotional needs. Here, however, we are seeing that just a photo of one’s significant other can have the same effect.”

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