Friendship Among Women Benefits Health

 

A landmark University of California, Los Angeles study now suggests that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than men in the face of stress. “It seems that the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman; it buffers the “fight or flight” response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women, instead,” reports Laurel Cousino Klein, Ph.D., who co-authored the study. “When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, [such] studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect.”

Klein explains that this calming effect does not occur in men because testosterone, which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress, seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. “Estrogen,” she says, “seems to enhance it.” The phenomenon has been missed in the past because 90 percent of stress research has been done with men.

Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., who has authored a book on female friendships, comments: “Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women. That’s really a mistake, because women are such a source of strength to each other.”

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