Many of us go to a masseuse to get a professional massage that leaves us feeling relaxed and stress-free. The backrubs, the candles, and essential oils create a state of tranquility that improves our physical and mental wellbeing. Now, researchers at Northumbria University in the UK, suggest couples who engage in mutual massages can reap the same benefits for each other.
Researchers Sayuri Naruse and Dr. Mark Moss found couples massages had a positive effect on a couples' wellbeing, perceived stress and coping three weeks after the massages ended. Couples also noted their physical and emotional wellbeing significantly improved after each massage session. This effect was seen whether the participant was giving or receiving the massage.
"These findings show that massage can be a simple and effective way for couples to improve their physical and mental wellbeing whilst showing affection for one another," said Naruse, lead researcher of the study, in a statement.
Giving and getting massages from significant others can help foster intimacy and bridge the touch gap that exists in America. Last year, in a Touch Initiative survey, a partnership between K-Y and The Kinsey Institute, about 90 percent of men and women in committed relationships stated regular or intimate touch was very or extremely important in building intimacy. Yet, over a third of people in intimate relationships said they're not being touched enough.
Previous research has found getting touched and touching makes couples healthier, happier, and less anxious. A massage from a significant other can not only ease pain, but also soothe depression and strengthen a relationship. It alleviates stress and promotes bonding due to its ability to release oxytocin, the hormone that helps create trust, and reduce levels of cortisol — the stress hormone.
In the new study, presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in Brighton, researchers had a total of 38 participants complete a three-week massage course. Wellbeing was assessed via questionnaires before and after the massage sessions across eight areas of physical and mental wellbeing, stress, coping, and relationship satisfaction. Shortly after, a 3-week follow-up was conducted to test the duration of a massage's effects.
In line with previous research, couples who gave each other a massage reported better relationship stability. Over 90 percent would recommend mutual massage to their friends and family. Moreover, about 75 percent of participants continued massaging each other at the end of the study, suggesting the positive effects of massages may be long lasting.
“The benefits of receiving a massage from a professional are well documented, but this research shows how a similar outcome can be obtained by couples with little prior training and experience of the activity," said Naruse.
Massage and touch are integral in maintaining relationships and sexual satisfaction. Touch is such a powerful form of nonverbal communication, and a great way to build a better connection in relationships. A massage is a pleasant intervention that can easily be incorporated into the lives of a couple's daily routine.