UBCO students give out free hugs to combat loneliness

Click to play video: 'UBCO courses focuses on student health'
UBCO courses focuses on student health
Watch: Starting university can be hard. However, a new course is hoping to help make that transition easier by giving students the health knowledge they need to stay on track – Nov 22, 2018

A small group of UBCO students were giving out free hugs in the foyer of a busy campus building on Thursday.

They were carrying signs reading “free hugs” and asked passersby if they wanted a hug. The aim was to help combat loneliness on campus.

“Research indicates that 60 per cent of university students report as feeling very lonely, so one of the ways that we found that combats loneliness is physical contact,” said student Tamara Bruce.

“We found that people who are deprived of physical contact, their cortisol increases, which is the hormone that increases stress. [With] physical contact, such as hugging, it increases endorphins, serotonin, all these feel-good hormones that make people hopefully feel less lonely.”
Story continues below advertisement

Bruce admits not everyone wanted a hug.

“I’m facing a little bit more rejection than I anticipated,” she said. “But for the most part, it is really nice and really great to see the amount of people that are willing to hug me.”

Watch Below: Hugging it out in Kelowna on Boxing Day.

Click to play video: 'Hugging it out in Kelowna on Boxing Day'
Hugging it out in Kelowna on Boxing Day

The initiative was part of a health fair held by students in a new health class, now in its second year, targeted at freshmen students.

The transition into university can be challenging and the class is teaching students personal health skills that will keep them healthy and, ultimately, help them do well at school.

“If we look at the stats around first-year students, it is kind of scary. The levels of anxiety [and] depression that they are dealing with, the levels of stress, are super high,” instructor Sally Steward said.
Story continues below advertisement

The university said its own research shows the class is helping students become more resilient.

Watch Below: Mental health support on-campus.

Click to play video: 'Mental health support at University of Saskatchewan’s veterinary college'
Mental health support at University of Saskatchewan’s veterinary college

“We are also finding that it didn’t significantly change their health . . . which is actually a positive result, because typically we find in the first year students’ health declines. So this course is like a buffer,” Steward said.

Future research will focus on whether such health coaching programs can improve grades and drop-out rates for younger students.

Sponsored content