Curious Questions: Is kissing good for you?

Annunciata Elwes asks the question on everyone's lips.

It’s 74 years ago this week since the most famous photograph of a kiss in history: the sailor in New York’s Times Square kissing a nurse among the crowds celebrating VJ Day, and the end of the Second World War.

The kissers — George Mendonsa and Greta Friedman — weren’t a couple, but instead simply caught up in the jubilation of the end of hostilities. Mendonsa survived until February of this year, when he died at the age of 95, while Friedman died three years ago at the age of 92.

Neither knew each other before, and they went there separate ways afterwards with no idea that they’d participated in the creation of an iconic image. ‘The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed,’ Friedman later told the Library of Congress. ‘It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.’

Did Mendonsa do more for Friedman than make her world famous though? It seems he may have since there is ample evidence to suggest that kissing is actually good for you.

Not only does kissing express affection, but it regulates the heartbeat, lowers blood pressure and stress hormones, increases our resistance to allergies, tooth decay and lung disease, reduces facial wrinkles and burns up to 26 calories per minute.

That ‘tooth decay’ bit might make you feel a little queasy, but the rest sounds good — and this is no small effect either. A German study found that those who kiss their partner each morning before leaving the house live five years longer than those who don’t.

If you’re worried about how to fund the extended lifespan that kissing will bring you, then worry not for — bizarrely — it seems kissing can make you richer. That same German study found that the partner-kissers also earn up to 30% more money.

'The Kiss' by Auguste Rodin at the Rodin Museum, Paris.

‘The Kiss’ by Auguste Rodin at the Rodin Museum, Paris.

Less surprising is the fact that kissing will help you find the partner with whom to enjoy all these benefits: apparently the average British woman merely needs to kiss someone 15 times before she knows if it’s lasting love or just a dalliance; for men, the figure is apparently 16. We’d suspect that the number of kisses needed would be a little lower if they’re long ones though — and probably a single kiss would do the job if it was as long as the world record smooch, which somehow lasted 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds.

Kissing needn’t take that long, but it will of course take some time out of your schedule. The average person spends 336 hours of his or her life kissing, compared with 229,961 sleeping and 9,600 commuting. Still, it seems like time well spent — and given the health benefits, perhaps we should be locking lips more often.