In a testament to the true power of a mother’s love, researchers have found that when a mother soothes her child after a traumatic incident, her calming presence can actually reduce the release of stress hormones that are known to contribute to inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, can have a long term adverse consequences on a person’s health.

A new study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, has determined that a mother’s efforts to comfort her kids can extend beyond simple hugs and kisses, and might very well have a physiological benefit. Scientists monitored a group of adults who grew up in circumstances that fell into the category of low socioeconomic status (SES). Within this group, half of the subjects indicated that they had a close and loving relationship with their mothers, while the other half described their maternal relationship as being cool and distant.

Comparing genetic markers between the two groups, researchers found that a close relationship with the subject's mother coincided with fewer active markers for inflammation. Previous research has linked low SES with chronic inflammation and as a consequence, a greater incidence of chronic disease. The new findings may suggest that under challenging circumstances like low SES, having a warm family environment may be all the more important in protecting the physical as well as emotional health of the child.

Inflammation is an important bodily response to injury or infection. It results in the release of inflammatory proteins the help the immune system notch up its defenses, especially in times of trauma. However, stress can also trigger the body to release these proteins, and when stress is a constant presence in a person’s life, it can result in long term health consequences, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer.

Some experts believe that stress encourages certain diseases. In fact, in women who have successfully overcome breast cancer, those whose lives have a great deal of stress are more than twice as likely to experience a relapse of the cancer. It therefore stands to reason that any measures that may help to lessen stress and provide comfort would help to decrease the incidence of systemic inflammation, as well.

So, the next time your mother offers you a warm embrace to comfort you, accept it with all your heart and know that it just may help you live a healthier life. At the very least, it will make you and your mother feel better, and that, in the end, is what it is all about.