Playing board games with a loved one is good for your relationship, study finds

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14 February 2019
monopoly-gamer-69908.jpg Monopoly Gamer (Hasbro)
But painting miniatures might be even better

Couples who game together, stay together. That’s the suggestion of a recent study into the effect of activities shared by partners, which found that playing board games together releases oxytocin – also known as the ‘love hormone’.

The study conducted by Baylor University researchers looked at the amount of oxytocin, which has been linked with bonding, trust and sexual attraction between people, released during an hour of two different activities: playing board games and painting.

The 20 couples aged between 25 and 40 who took part in the study played games that they already knew how to play, taking away the potential of any negative feeling from having to slog through a thick rulebook. (Definitely a mood-killer.) Some of the games played included traditional games such as cards, draughts, chess and dominoes, as well as more ‘modern’ board games like Monopoly. Puzzles and word games were also counted as part of the selection of games.

Gaming’s potential health benefits have been previously explored, with a 2017 study finding that playing board games once a week may help to combat the risk of cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later in life.

All of the couples in the Baylor University study were found to release oxytocin when playing together, with groups who indulged in a ‘novel’ activity and environment instead of the familiarity of their home releasing even more of the hormone.

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“We were expecting the opposite – that couples playing the board games would interact more because they were communicating about the games and strategies, or because they were competing, and with more interaction, they would release more oxytocin,” said Karen Melton PhD, assistant professor of child and family studies at Baylor’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences and co-author of the study.

Although playing board games was found to be the most effective way of releasing oxytocin for the female participants in the study, the male subjects who spent an hour painting a beach scene in an art class released double the amount of oxytocin than any of the other groups. The women who painted released more oxytocin than the men who played board games.

“Typically, an art class is not seen as an interactive date with your partner,” Melton said. “But sometimes couples that were painting turned the activity into a bonding time by choosing to interact — putting an arm around their partner or simply saying, ‘Good job.’”

Prefer your cardboard to your canvas? Why not consider splitting the difference and painting miniatures with your special someone this Valentine’s Day?


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