Now a new study in the journal Psychological Science show that holding hands can have real physiological benefits.
Dr. Richard Davidson who runs a brain imaging lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recruiting 16 couples whom he identified as happily married.
It sounds a little cruel, but Davidson put the wives in an MRI machine and occasionally delivered mild electric shocks to their ankles.
He found that when the husbands reached in and held their wife hands, the areas of their wives brains that register anxiety showed much less activity.
The wives who claimed to be the most happily married showed the most dramatic results, greater the intimacy in the relationship. the more significant was the reduction of brain activity in areas of the brain that are association with threat, detection and with anxiety
As brain images have become more advanced, there have been a flood of studies claiming to illustrate the physiological effects of everything from meditation to political partisanship to love.
Does Affection Make You Healthier?Davidson believes his study shows that affection among loving couples may actually change people's brains.
He says it could make people better able to handle stress, and therefore healthier -- a notion bolstered by studies showing social contact can boost people's immune systems.