A new study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain finds that passive social support from a romantic partner — meaning, just their presence, no physical touching or words exchanged — lessens the amount of pain a person feels.
The University of Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology conducted an experiment comparing the reactions of men and women when inflicted with pain from a controlled device, versus their reactions when their significant others were in the room with them. When next to a loved one — again, without interacting with them in any way — both men and women exhibited a higher pain threshold and tolerance.
Comforting touches and words have repeatedly been proven to help reduce pain, but this is one of the first breakthroughs in learning how nonverbal or physical care can also contribute to building someone's tolerance up. By having your partner sit with you during a painful experience, your partner's empathy seemingly buffers the experience of pain.
While this is great news for couples, the results are not as promising for those who are single.
Social empathy was found to not be as powerful as romantic empathy. Part of the report argues that the support from a friend is perceived as more passive than from that of a loved one. The report also sites another study in which women were found to experience more pain when in the presence of a same sex friend versus when they were being tested alone.
The research is still being worked on in terms of figuring out best practices for pain tolerance, but watch the video above to learn more about the study.