Girls night out can save your life.
December 11, 2003 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Girls night out can save your life. 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 as fast as possible... (Old news, but I don't think it's been posted before.)
posted by badstone (30 comments total)
Makes sense to me, though the part about women responding to stress by "gathering their children and seeking the comfort of other women" in response to stress seems a bit patriarchally informed.
posted by pomegranate at 11:19 AM on December 11, 2003

Actually, the author says: "tend children and gather with other women instead." "Gather with" is quite a bit different than "seek comfort of", so she could just as well be referring to the tactical advatage of power in numbers. You may be projecting a bit there.

Re: child care as instinct and not just social training, I think that was pretty well established as "real" before this study, wasn't it?
posted by badstone at 11:30 AM on December 11, 2003

I don't think pomegranate is projecting. I'm a childless feminist introvert fighter, and I find the piece fluffy and condescending.
posted by rainbaby at 11:39 AM on December 11, 2003

Men and women are equal in every way, except for the ways in which women are highly superior.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:39 AM on December 11, 2003

Yes, I misread, primarily because whenever I read studies like this I am just *waiting* to be irritated or offended. (No I am not being sarcastic, I just get too PoMo and critical whenever I read something that reminds me of my old Women's Studies college classes.) I have a chip of Foucalt on my shoulder.
posted by pomegranate at 11:42 AM on December 11, 2003

it blows my mind that so much (most?) research is done with male test subjects only. it's just plain idiocy to leave out the majority gender... i would assume that's why so little progress is made in so many areas.

at any rate, the last thing i'll do when stressed is bond with the girls. i go off on my own and sort my problems out as fast as possible, rarely asking for help. and this stomach churning daily stress they mention is foreign to me... i stress maybe 2 or 3 times a year, not daily for god's sake. everybody, calm the hell down already!
posted by t r a c y at 11:45 AM on December 11, 2003

A waste of reading time. Conjecture, drawn from tangential studies, does not herald in a new era of human understanding for me.
posted by FormlessOne at 11:49 AM on December 11, 2003

You women are bonding, aren't you...Y'know, I'm really stressed out about the fact that I can't fight any battles here in this discussion because I'm not a woman. I think I'll just go off into a corner and sulk.
posted by troutfishing at 11:50 AM on December 11, 2003

Heh, they thought stress caused ulcers until that guy swallowed a test tube of the bacteria that actually did cause them. There's alot we don't know about stress.

tracy --

There's a difference between stressing and stressing, or burning as some respond to it. Kind of like the difference between limping and going into shock.
posted by effugas at 11:50 AM on December 11, 2003

out the majority gender
Thought more male babies are born per year? Add ever notice whom shows the more curiosity per men & woman?
Plus if a male scientist is trying to figure something out it may because his end solution is him. We do need more woman scientist; the first person I knew with a degree in chemistry was a woman.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:53 AM on December 11, 2003

I've always assumed that men are chosen for medical studies because you don't have to factor in the occasional pregnancy. If you are studying a new ulcer pill (for instance) a woman who becomes pregnant will have to drop out. You get enough drop outs and the study could be ruined.
posted by Bonzai at 11:59 AM on December 11, 2003

pomegranate, rainbaby -
Believe me, I hear that. I would only ever post a study that referred to actual biology at this point - in this case the oxytocin connection. Unfortunately this author's tone is pretty flaky, but this seems to be the only layperson's article about this study out there, and I didn't want to just post the study itself. I do think it's still fantasically important to sort out the biological vs. social in all this.
posted by badstone at 12:10 PM on December 11, 2003

badstone -
do you have a link to the actual study? I have been looking, and so far have come up with nothing. If you do know of where we can go to find the info, please let me know.
posted by bradth27 at 12:14 PM on December 11, 2003

thomcatspike - women HAVE to be the majority gender. Think about it. Who is having all those babies?
posted by agregoli at 12:14 PM on December 11, 2003

thomcat, yes more male babies are born but less of them survive the first year of life so females, who also still tend to live longer than men, are still the majority. what with china's one-baby-only rule, and other fucked up cultural stuff i'm sure we'll see a planet-wide male majority in the near future.
posted by t r a c y at 12:16 PM on December 11, 2003

Not to mention, outside of gender issues, this is an interesting health issue. It sheds a little light on what is otherwise dismissed as a hippy-ish/New Agey/whatever conjecture that friendship extends life.
posted by badstone at 12:17 PM on December 11, 2003

The "majority" gender? by a few percentage points, more boys are born then girls, its just that women live longer. There may be more of you, but it's not like a few 80+ grandmas really make that much of a diffrence.
posted by delmoi at 12:22 PM on December 11, 2003

I just can't get past that part about stress "encourages her to tend children." It would never occur to me to seek children as a stress reducer -- in fact, I would find that to be a guaranteed way to increase stress. Maybe these stressed women are tending children because they have no one else to take care of the children, and that's why they're stressed.

Now, hanging out with friends, yes. Especially if the friends have access to cheesecake.
posted by sageleaf at 12:24 PM on December 11, 2003

Nicely put, sageleaf. Just in time, too, my blood pressure was starting to shoot up.
posted by rainbaby at 12:34 PM on December 11, 2003

this isn't a contest delmoi, no need to get your girls have cooties placard out. leaving out at least half of the planet's population when doing health research benefits no one in the long run.
posted by t r a c y at 12:43 PM on December 11, 2003

Delmoi it's not just a handful of grannies. Females live longer from birth, not just in old age. Never fear though, with all the female infanticide in china, india, et al, combined with lower research funds for "women's health", boys will "win" eventually. Yay, what a triumph! Especially for all you straight guys.
posted by zarah at 12:50 PM on December 11, 2003

combined with lower research funds for "women's health"
Care to back that up?
posted by 4easypayments at 2:05 PM on December 11, 2003

Females live longer from birth, not just in old age.

Just to clarify, does that mean that levels of mortality among males at all ages are greater than levels of mortality among females? Is this statistic the same for all social classes? If so, why do you think this is the case?
posted by Grangousier at 2:29 PM on December 11, 2003

one exception at least to the (stereotyped?) male stress response given here...

I remember reading about vietnam vets and why they were more susceptible to ptsd than vets of other conflicts. Rotated in with strangers, limited acclimatisation, rotated back alone, no support from other members of unit who shared war experiences. Implication being that men require that post-stress debrief bonding in a similar way. Bit of a link
(about two-thirds of the way down...)
posted by pots at 3:15 PM on December 11, 2003

It makes sense to study men first, and once all their biology is figured out, to study the women next. After
all, God made Adam first.

posted by Slagman at 4:59 PM on December 11, 2003

Just to clarify,

It's in the first year of birth that male survival rate is lesser than female. Apparently it evens out after that as long as good health care is available. Of course it has to do with what circumstances you are born into.

Care to back that up?

Those links are soft. We all know men don't go to the doctor as often as they should and it stands to reason that women use up more health care dollars if they take more responsibility for their own health and also happen to be breeders. That doesn't change, explain, or make right the fact that women are not factored in for many areas of major research.
posted by zarah at 5:15 PM on December 11, 2003

The links didn't refer to personal health care expendature. They referred to research and the statistics that when it comes to sex-specific research, research funding for women drastically swamps research for men. If the links are soft, let's see some solid ones.
posted by 4easypayments at 6:01 PM on December 11, 2003

On average, a man is as likely to die from prostate cancer as a woman is from breast cancer, prostate cancer recieves 1/5 the federal funding that breast cancer does.
posted by 4easypayments at 6:09 PM on December 11, 2003

Most working women I know slash each other to bits when the stress hits. I guess they mean 'seek other females not involved in the stress situation in any way'.
posted by HTuttle at 3:27 AM on December 12, 2003

The 'fucked up cultural stuff' mentioned above is far worse, in terms of gender imbalance amongst children aged 5-15 as a result of selective abortion, in Korea than pretty much anywhere else. Oddly, Korea is not mentioned at all in the linked article. FWIW.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:08 AM on December 13, 2003

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