Sometimes, when you're feeling anxious, all you need is a hug. But the thought of actually hugging someone might instil yet more anxiety. That's where the Snug Vest comes in. It uses a clinical method known as deep pressure therapy to essentially simulate a hug, which has been found to help reduce anxiety and stress and to be an effective treatment for people with autism or ADHD.

The Snug Vest is fitted with a hand pump that wearers can use to put pressure on their shoulders, back, and sides. The theory is that this allows pressure to be more evenly-distributed and less restrictive than weighted vests or neoprene vests with velcro straps. This pressure is supposed to simulate the sensation of being hugged, which induces a calming effect.

The anecdotal evidence in both clinical practice and more general day-to-day wear suggests that the Snug Vest and its weighted alternatives have a significant positive impact on children with autism and other sensory disorders as well as on adults with anxiety or stress disorders, but the science is less conclusive.

A 1987 study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that deep pressure therapy had some subjective benefit for people with anxiety, while a 1992 trial of the squeeze machine (a deep therapy apparatus based on a cattle squeeze) suggested that its benefits in treating autistic children vary from one child to the next. And a 2009 review in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders of several studies determined that weighted vests are ineffective in treating children with autism and other behavioral disabilities.

The Snug Vest has been clinically trialled twice – once by the University of Victoria, with Snug Vest as one of the sponsors, and once by Snug Vest's product team, with funding from National Research Council Canada. Both studies found highly-positive outcomes that suggest the vest both reduces anxiety and tantrums and increases positive emotions in children by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (which regulates unconscious actions). But the sample sizes used (i.e. the number of study participants) are too low for these studies to be considered in any way conclusive and little research has been conducted into the benefits of the vest, or deep pressure therapy in general, in adults.

Scientific uncertainty aside, Snug Vest has found great success since its commercial introduction in 2013. The Vancouver-based startup has sold hundreds of vests worldwide and earned plaudits in international awards such as the 2011 Red Dot Design Awards and 2014 Medical Design Excellence Awards.

The Snug Vest is designed for general everyday use, with a sporty style that shouldn't draw any extra attention to the wearer and a fit that shouldn't affect mobility in any way. Its pressure can be varied as desired via a hand pump, and it can be adjusted up to two inches (5 cm) in length to fit growing children or multiple wearers. An attachable hood blocks out light and visual distractions for when the wearer needs a moment of peace, while two front pockets can safely hold whatever knick-knacks are needed.

It doesn't come cheap, however. A single Snug Vest in either red and black or turquoise and black will set you back CA$395 (US$312) plus the cost of shipping. For buyers who need one for medical reasons, the Snug Vest website includes information on how to get government funding support or reimbursement through an insurance provider in Canada or the United States.

The video below shows Snug Vest creator Lisa Fraser explaining the thought process behind its design.

Source: Snug Vest

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