Stressed? Call Mom, Researchers Conclude

Jan 12, 2012 8:00am

Moms feed us, read to us, clap the loudest, cry the hardest, sit front row at recorder recitals, write notes in our lunchboxes and promise that the hole in our hearts after a break-up won’t stay there forever.

So maybe it just makes sense that the sound of our moms’ voices triggers a physical hormonal response that comforts and de-stresses.

As Wired first reported, new research, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, found that conversations with mom, over the phone or in person, were associated with a drop in cortisol, a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress. The mama chats also helped raise levels of oxytocin, a hormone linked to desire and gratification. But mom talks had no effect if they happened over text or instant messenger.

Researchers asked a group of 64 girls ages 7 through 12 to answer difficult math problems in front of three adults they didn’t know. The scientists were sure to exclude any girl who had extreme family strains or hardships.

After answering the questions, researchers split the girls into four groups. One group did not speak to their mothers at all, the next spoke on the phone, the third spoke in person and the last wrote to their moms on the computer through instant message. The girls who heard their moms’ voices, either in person or through the phone, experienced comforting hormone responses, but the girls who communicated with their moms through the computer showed no such changes.

Authors suggested that the voice’s familiar tone, cadence and intonation, rather than the specific words spoken, have calming effects on the body.

“In an age when emailing and texting and IMing is so popular, this shows that we’re missing the important component of the human voice that is able to convey comfort,” Leslie Seltzer, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin and lead author of the study, told ABCNews.com. “The computer or text is just not the same as talking to someone.”

Take away, message: Call Mom. It’s good for your health.

Talk to you soon, Lois “Mom of the Century” Conley.

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