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Thursday, October 23, 2008


Dear friends,

Do read the article below, it is really good! What wonder friendship can do:
An exerpt from the article reads:

"women are such a source of strength for each other. We nurture one
another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we do the special
kind of talk that women do when they're with other women. It's a very
healing experience."


By Gale Berkowitz

A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They
shape who we are, and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous
inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember
who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually
counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a
daily basis.

A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade
of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with
other women.
It's a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research ? most
of it on men ? upside down. "Until this study was published, scientists
generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a
hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee fast
as possible, " explains Laura Cousino Klein Ph.D., now an Assistant
Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the
study's authors.

"It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time when we were
chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers. Now the researchers
suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just "fight or
flight". "In fact", says Dr. Klein, it seems that when 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. When she actually engages in this tending or
befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further
counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does
not occur in men," says Dr. Klein, "because testosterone ? which men
produce in high levels when they're under stress ? seems to reduce the
effects of oxytocin. Estrogen," she adds, "seems to enhance it."

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in
classic "aha! moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one
day in a lab at UCLA.

"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."

The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist
after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein
and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research,
scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress
differently than men has significant implications for our health. It may
take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin
encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the
"tend and befriend" notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain
why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social
ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and

"There's no doubt," says Klein, "That friends are helping us live longer."
In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends
increased their risk of death over a 6-moth period. In another study, those
who had the most friends over a 9-month period cut their risk of death by
more than 60%.

Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses' Health Study
from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less
likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more
likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so
significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or
confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra

And that's not all! When the researchers looked at how well the women
functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the
face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend
and confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new
physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. Those without friends
were not always so fortunate.

Yet if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our
life these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life,
why is it so hard to find time to be with them? That's a question that also
troubles researcher Ruthellen Josselson, PhD, co-author of Best Friends:
The Pleasures and Perils of Girls' and Women's Friendships. (Three Rivers
Press, 1998). "Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the
first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women," explains Dr.
Josselson. "We push them right to the back burner. That's really a mistake
because women are such a source of strength for each other. We nurture one
another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we do the special
kind of talk that women do when they're with other women. It's a very
healing experience."

Taylor, S.E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B.P., Gruenewald, T.L., Gurung, R.A.,
(2000). Female Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight,
Psychological Review, 107(3), 41-429



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