Posted on: 12.12.2022 Posted by: Drlark Comments: 0

February 4, 2004


Friendship—The Glue that Holds Women


In 2000, UCLA scientists

Shelley Taylor, Ph.D., and Laura Klein, Ph.D., examined the female

response to stress. They found that while women do experience the

automatic “fight or flight” response to stress, they quickly

shift from this mode to one that allows them to care for their young,

and to reach out to others for assistance in protecting themselves.

The researchers termed this female response “tend and befriend.”

The researchers also discovered that hormonal changes in response

to stress are quite different for men and women. Males in “fight

or flight” mode produce androgen hormones, such as testosterone,

which are related to reactivity and aggression. Women, however,

produce oxytocin, a hormone released during breastfeeding.

Oxytocin helps promote bonding between a mother

and her baby. It also encourages her to tend to her children and

to befriend other women, and could be considered a built-in mechanism

for preserving the species. In addition, it produces a calming effect

in response to stress. Often, this is enhanced by estrogen. In contrast,

testosterone tends to negate the effect of oxytocin (which men produce

in small amounts). New studies suggest that the presence of oxytocin

in women may even help explain why women tend to live longer than


The long and short of it is that stronger connections

equal less stress, and less stress equals better health. The better

connected you are with your friends, family, and community, the

more likely you are to have a support network to turn to when times

get tough. Having someone to share your burdens with makes all the

difference in the world. Think about how much better you feel after

talking to someone. If you’re like me, you’ve said on more than

one occasion, “I feel better just hearing your voice,”

when a close friend calls.

Numerous studies have supported the health benefit

of friendship. Social connections reduce your risk of disease by

lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate. The famed

Nurse’s Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that older

women were more likely to live a happier life and less likely to

age rapidly if they had close friends or a confidante to turn to.

Another study showed that those who had the most friends over a

9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60 percent.

This has been proven true in even the most trying

times. Harvard researchers found that even after the loss of a spouse,

women with a network of close friends were more likely to live through

the trauma without their health suffering significantly.

So, the next time you are feeling stressed, think

about your body’s natural response—to connect with and care

for your family and friends. You may find that reconnecting brings

your stress level right back under control. Besides, hearing your

voice just might make someone else’s day.




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