top of page

Oxytocin Levels Rise in ICU-Admitted Children Through Storytelling

Recent research highlights the remarkable benefits of storytelling in enhancing the emotional state of children in intensive care units. Notably, a single session has been shown to boost oxytocin levels while decreasing cortisol and pain, signaling a significant emotional uplift.

Guilherme Brockington: Pioneering Research in Storytelling's Impact

Guilherme Brockington of Brazil's Federal University of ABC, driven by his passion for storytelling, spearheaded a study to quantitatively assess its effects on children. Collaborating with the D’Or Institute for Research and Education, the team explored how storytelling might transport young patients to a world beyond the ICU's stressful confines.

A Comparative Study: Storytelling Versus Riddles

The study involved 81 children, aged 4-11, all ICU patients with common respiratory conditions. They were divided into two groups: one experienced storytelling sessions, while the other engaged in riddle-solving activities.

Choosing the Right Stories: A Careful Selection Process

In the storytelling group, children enjoyed a variety of light-hearted stories, deliberately selected to avoid emotional bias or influence from popular media. This careful curation ensured that the impact measured was solely due to the storytelling.

Measuring the Impact: A Scientific Approach

To evaluate the effects, children provided saliva samples and completed questionnaires both before and after the sessions. The results were clear: storytelling significantly increased oxytocin, reduced cortisol levels, and lowered perceived pain compared to the riddle-solving group.

Beyond Pain Relief: The Power of Storytelling in Linguistic Association

The research also shed light on how storytelling can alter a child’s perception of the hospital environment, emphasizing the human connection and the power of narrative.

Broader Implications: Storytelling in Times of COVID-19

Brockington notes the relevance of these findings beyond the hospital, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Storytelling, he suggests, could be a valuable tool for families to support children facing social isolation and stress.

Advocating for Humanized Clinical Practices

This study underscores storytelling as a viable, low-cost intervention in clinical settings, with the potential to greatly improve the well-being of hospitalized children and aid in their recovery process.

The Future of Pediatric Care: Emphasizing Emotional Well-Being

The researchers hope that these findings will pave the way for more empathetic and humanized clinical practices, highlighting the importance of simple, yet effective, interventions like storytelling in pediatric care.


bottom of page