Is there a higher purpose behind wearing your partner's shirt when you miss them?

Researchers at the University of British Columbia say yes. A new study, published this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found women feel calmer after being exposed to their male partner's scent. 

"Many people wear their partner's shirt or sleep on their partner's side of the bed when their partner is away, but may not realize why they engage in these behaviours," said Marlise Hofer, the study's lead author and a graduate student in the UBC department of psychology.

"Our findings suggest that a partner's scent, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress," said Hofer.

Hofer told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko that 96 heterosexual couples participated in the study.

The men wore a shirt for 24 hours and women were randomly assigned shirts to smell after undergoing stress tests — including a mock job interview.

Women who smelled their partner's shirts had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Participants who were given a shirt with the scent of a stranger had elevated cortisol levels.

"Scent is not widely studied as a mode of communication," said Hofer, "I was interested in subliminal scent and how people communicate via scent."

Hofer said she tested women first because they have a stronger sense of smell. The plan is to expand testing in the future to other demographics — including parents and children. 

To hear the complete interview click on the audio below:

With files from On The Coast