A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology from the American Psychological Association reveals that smelling your partner’s scent on an item of clothing reduces stress levels.
CBS Local reports on a study of 96 women who were given three different scents – one scent was that of their partner, the other the scent of a stranger, and the third a neutral scent.
“Our findings suggest that a partner’s scent alone, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress,” Marlise Hofer, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in the UBC department of psychology, said in a statement. Conversely, a stranger’s scent actually increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels for these women.
Researchers included 96 opposite-sex couples for the study and had men wear a clean T-shirt for 24 hours. The men were instructed to not wear deodorant or scented body products, and they couldn’t smoke or eat foods that might otherwise affect their scent. To ensure the scent remained intact, the T-shirts were frozen after.
Women then either had to smell a T-shirt that hadn’t been worn, belonged to their partner or belonged to a stranger – without knowing which one they had. They also underwent stress tests, including a mock job interview and mental math tasks, in addition to giving saliva samples to test their cortisol levels.
There was no research done on men who have sex with men.
A fascinating 2005 study, however, linked body odor to sexual orientation:
The study involved 24 heterosexual and homosexual men and women who for around nine days were subjected to a “wash-out” period when they used scent-free soap and shampoo and did not eat food with garlic, cumin or curry.
After this, they wore sterile cotton pads under their armpits for a day. These were collected and stored to use as a bottled source of their body odour. A panel of 82 heterosexual and homosexual men and women, not including the donors of the armpit pads, were asked to sniff each bottled body odour and evaluate its pleasantness according to a set of criteria. In a study in the journal Psychological Science, the scientists found: “Heterosexual males and females preferred odours from heterosexual males relative to gay males; gay males preferred odours from other gay males.
“Heterosexual males and females and lesbians over the age of 25 preferred odours from lesbians, relative to the odours from gay males; gay males preferred the odours of other gay males relative to lesbians,” they say.
Dr Wysocki said the strongest finding was that gay men prefer the smell of other gay men and that lesbians responded differently to body odour compared to heterosexual women. “The overall conclusions are that the body odour you most prefer or least prefer does not depend on where it comes from but it also depends on who you are, in other words, your sexual orientation,” Dr Wysocki said.