Feeling down? Stressed? Anxious? Call your mom!

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin studied 64 girls between the ages of 7 and 12, using a popular method scientists use to cause stress: they had the girls do hard math problems in front of a few adults. (Are you feeling the stress yet?)

Then they divided the girls into 4 groups:

  • One group called their moms on the phone.
  • One group spoke to their moms in person.
  • One group “talked” to their moms on the computer by instant message (IM).
  • One group didn’t communicate with their moms at all.
Business woman on smart phone in New York City, Manhattan walking in dress suit holding doggy bag smiling and laughing, Young multiracial Asian Caucasian professional female businesswoman in her 20s.

Then the researchers performed blood tests that measure levels of certain hormones: a “stress hormone” called cortisol [CORE-ti-zahl] and a “love and trust hormone” called oxytocin [ox-ee-TOE-sin] levels. The researchers compared the results to measurements taken before the tests had begun. The result?

The girls who talked to their moms in person or over the phone had lower stress levels. But talking to mom by IM made no difference at all.

Maybe something in the mothers’ voices made the daughters calmer, or maybe something in the girls’ voices helped the moms to understand and respond more effectively. Either way, words on a screen, even typed by mom, didn’t seem to help. But mom’s voice did work to soothe frayed nerves.

When you are feeling stressed or sad, whose voice makes you feel better?

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