Companionship May Speed Healing

We gather together each week to hear the healing, saving word delivered in the good news of the Sunday Sermon. But there’s also something healing about good company. That’s the indication of new research from Ohio State University.

“Stress delays wound healing in humans and other animals, and social contact helps counteract this delay,” says Courtney DeVries, assistant psychology professor at Ohio State.

To learn why, DeVries and her colleagues did a series of tests on hampsters with skin wounds to find out how social companionship influenced healing. In the study, the researchers varied the conditions of housed hampsters to see if positive social interactions would improve recovery.

A group of wounded hampsters were paired with siblings; others were socially isolated. When exposed to stress, the isolated animals fared worst. They had increases in the stress hormone cortisol and their wounds became larger and lasted longer, researchers say.

Oxytocin, a hormone released during social contact, appears to play a key role.

In a second experiment, isolated hampsters were treated with oxytocin. The oxytocin blocked the increases in stress hormones seen previously when the hampsters were exposed to stress. The treatment resulted in 25% faster wound healing compared with the isolated hampsters that did not receive oxytocin.

Meanwhile, treatment with a medication to block the release of oxytocin slowed healing in hampsters that were allowed to bond.

The lesson? Positive social interaction helps healing. That could easily apply to humans as well as hampsters. The researchers say that socially isolated people, particularly those with diabetes, cancer, AIDS, and organ transplantation, may run a greater risk of slow-healing wounds due to stress, which could ultimately lead to wound infection.

“Having a companion may help wounds heal faster during stressful times,” says DeVries, whose study recently appeared in a leading medical journal.

“And God has appointed in the church . . . gifts of healing, forms of assistance . . .”

(1 Cor. 12:28).

Adapted from, Hitti, M. WebMD Medical News.

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