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UCSB study shows levels of 'love hormone' increase when reunited with family

Adrian Jaeggi, PhD

Anthropologists at UC Santa Barbara say they've found evidence that the old expression, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," is actually true.

The scientists studied the hormonal reactions hunters in the Bolivian Amazon encountered when leaving home for a day of hunting, during conditions while hunting, and then returning to their families.

The research showed elevated levels of oxytocin—known as the "love hormone"—when the Tsimane men were reunited with their loved ones.

The oxytocin levels also increased the longer the men were away.

The UCSB team was looking at how the body's hormone levels motivate human behavior. Samples of saliva were taken at several times throughout the day to test for levels of testosterone, oxytocin, and cortisol. 

Adrian Jaeggi, the paper’s co-lead author and a postdoctoral scholar in UCSB’s Department of Anthropology, says the findings could possibly relate to men in the United States who may feel similar emotional moments during their workdays.

"They're ruling our lives and we don't realize it," Jaeggi said regarding the chemicals our bodies release each day. 

The study was relatively small, but Jaeggi and the team want to develop a less-expensive way to do larger samples with more diverse populations.