Whether it’s dude drama, new job disasters or the never-ending struggle to find the best smudge-proof eyeliner, you know you can turn to your BFFs for help on just about anything that’s stressing you out. But while you and your girls tell each other basically every detail of your lives, it might seem like your guy friends rarely bond over anything deeper than their issues with pro basketball. If you’ve ever wondered why that is, science might finally be getting closer to an answer — and there could be more to it than just how boys and girls are taught to feel about expressing feelings.
According to a new study from the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary, Canada, there’s some new evidence that men and women cope with stress differently, and it has a lot to do with how we socialize. While social interaction is proven to mitigate the effects of stress across the board (or gender gap), and recent research has suggested that social isolation affects young girls more deeply than boys, this is one of only a few studies that takes a close look at what exactly goes on in the brain when someone is dealing with that kind of lack-of-friend drama.
Or rather, when some mouse is dealing with it. The researchers studied male and female mice in group conditions, pairs and isolation, and their brains reacted very differently when subjected to that last configuration. While the Mickeys seemed to cope with being by themselves just fine, the Minnies who’d been isolated from the rest of the pack experienced a release of a chemical in the brain called corticosterone, which is produced in response to stress conditions. To further examine the difference in male and female stress reactions, later the researchers had the mice experience a physical stress test (a 20-minute swim), and in that case, both sexes showed increased corticosterone. So basically, while both sexes have the capacity to experience stress, only the females got stressed out by being socially isolated.
So what does this mean for you, as a non-rodent human? Well, more research is needed to see if these same patterns translate in other species, but if it would appear that having a tight group of friends is especially critical for women to maintain a low-stress existence, and we might even be biologically wired to seek it out. But until science can catch up and actually prove that, feel free to play it safe and keep saying “yes” to every ladies’ night invite — you know, for your health.
How do your friends help you manage stress? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)