Friday, May 21, 2010

Women and friendship

The other day my friend Ms Treasure (and she is a treasure) sent me a story about a UCLA study which found that when women experience stress, their instinct is to gather up their children and seek out other women.

Before this, scientists believed the hormonally induced “flight or fight” response was a universal response to stress.

When women are stressed, more oxytocin is released, which produces a calming effect — what researchers have dubbed the “tend and befriend” response. Men’s testosterone levels reduce this effect of oxytocin.

Two female scientists stumbled across this idea talking one day in a UCLA lab.

“There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded,” says Dr Klein.

“When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something.”

Their discovery that women respond differently than men to stress turned five decades of stress research on its head.

Not only that, the researchers found that female friendship was good for women's health, and might explain why women live longer than men. Strong social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol.

Apparently the more good friends women have, the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life.

Ah, how lovely... Not that I needed proof that my women friends were special.

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