New research confirms that the scent of your significant other really does reduce stress, especially in women
01/10/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

According to a recent study, simply smelling your significant other's shirt can help reduce your stress levels.

Results from the study by scientists from the University of British Columbia can hold the key to keeping individuals in long-distance relationships, which are becoming more common, stay calm even though they have to spend time apart from each other.

At least three percent of married couples in the U.S. shared that they were in long distance relationships in 2007. Frances Chen, senior study author, says that because of globalization, individuals are now spending more time traveling for work and relocating.

She adds that based on their research, owning a piece of clothing worn by a loved one can "help lower stress levels" when you're on the road. (Related: Why Avoiding Stress in Your Relationship Is Key to Maintaining Good Health.)

Pheromones also come to play when we talk about the chemistry between two people in a romantic relationship. In this new study, it was determined that "smell is part of more than the initial attraction." It is linked to a general "sense of safety - at least for women in heterosexual relationships." The researchers only examined the effects of a male partner's scent on a woman's stress levels because of the latter's "superior sense of smell."

The researchers invited 96 straight couples to take part in the study. One-third of the group was randomly assigned "to smell an unworn shirt, one third to smell a stranger's shirt, and one third to smell a shirt that their romantic partner had worn." Hofer, a graduate student in University of British Columbia's school of social psychology, adds that gathering the data proved to be a challenging task.


Hofer et al. had to ensure that the female participants "were at the same point in their menstrual cycles" to maintain a consistency in the "levels of stress, scent and sensitivity to stress. The male participants all received plain white t-shirts that had to be worn for 24 hours, "including to bed for a night, apart from their partner, and had to spend two days without deodorant."

Hofer reports that, ironically, some couples broke up during the study, which meant that their data could no longer be used. She continues that they still managed to reach a "pleasant level of body odor" for the study.

The women smelled their assigned shirts, then they were tasked with stressful activities like a mock job interview. Afterwards, their cortisol (stress hormones) were measured and they were questioned about their feelings.

The female participants who smelled their partners' shirts and recognized the scent were calmer for the duration of the activities. Their cortisol levels also "returned to normal more quickly," which indicates that they were able to handle their stress better. However, the women weren't always accurate when identifying their significant others' scents. Only two-thirds recognized the smell on the shirts and a third thought they had a stranger's shirt.

Hofer concluded, "Scent is not a very widely studied mode of communication," but when extended to parents and children, the results of the study "could have really strong implications for separation anxiety." She notes that it could even "explain the boyfriend sweater phenomenon."

Tips for couples dealing with stress

Being in a romantic relationship is not all roses. If you and your significant other are looking for tips on how to deal with stress, try some of the tips listed below:

  • Be more accepting -- Problems in a relationship aren't always easy to solve, but acceptance is key in any relationship.
  • Be a team -- Maintain a united front and never blame each other.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help -- You can still ask others for help, especially if you both have your hands full with work.
  • Be accepting of how others react to stress -- "Not everyone reacts to stress in the same way," and that's all right.

You can learn more about other fascinating scientific phenomena at

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