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Health and Financial Wellness

How having strong female friendships benefit your wellbeing

Spending time with your female friends, whether in-person or virtually (since we are in a pandemic), is essential in maintaining your sanity and overall health, especially as you age and deal with mounting stress.

While a close-knit group of dependable friends is important to everyone’s wellbeing, women in particular benefit from their female friendships in a special way.

There is an abundant amount of research on the nurturing and sustaining power of female friendships. These findings consistently show these friendships immensely contribute to women’s overall health and happiness – beginning from their awkward teenage days until their twilight years.  

They offer a fresh and honest perspective [1]

According to LYSN psychologist Breanna Jayne Sada, although women get love and support from their partners, a female friend can offer a different view during times of need. When it comes to relationships, a female friend can be an outsider looking in, offering sincere advice that you may not want to hear, but can positively influence your decisions. [1]

Although a friend’s honesty can be brutal, at least you know you are getting the truth, Sada pointed out. Female friends can serve as sounding boards who will listen to your thoughts and ideas before telling you what they honestly think.  

Good female friends will also help boost your self-esteem. They will tell you why your partner needs to treat you better or why you deserve that work promotion. They will leave you feeling confident and supported after having a conversation with them.

Sada added that research has shown that women with strong friendships have higher survival rates from breast cancer compared to those who are socially isolated.

They help fight stress

When women are stressed, they respond differently than men with a reaction called “tend and befriend.” This means women react to stressful conditions by tending to those around them and seeking out social contact.

A landmark study has found that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in women, it encourages them to take care of their children and to befriend other women. [2] These actions then pump more oxytocin, which further relieves stress and produces a calming effect.     

As women respond to stress differently than men, they also connect with each other very differently. According to Dr. Gloria Gilbère, founder and CEO of the Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation,  when women spend quality time together, they produce more serotonin — a neurotransmitter that helps fight depression and create a general feeling of wellbeing. [3]

She said that while women are good about sharing feelings, men often form relationships by engaging in activities like sports, business, and hobbies. Men rarely talk about their feelings or personal lives with their buddy, but women will open their souls with their best friends — and research shows that it benefits their health.

They can prolong life

Spending time with friends appears to be a natural behavior for women that extends their life expectancy. According to a UCLA research, women, compared to men, more reliably turn to their social circle when experiencing stress, which has been noted to protect their health and longevity. [4]

The fact that men are more likely to choose fight or flight responses when dealing with stress, while women go for tend and befriend, may help to explain the global gender gap in mortality.

They help keep depression at bay in older women

Female friendships can help older women deal with depression, according to a report in Psychology Today. [5] It pointed out that friendships offer more than just fun and games. They are vital to one’s physical and mental health, as isolation and loneliness greatly contribute to depression.

While children and spouses may not understand the struggles that come with old age, your best girlfriends will. Whether that struggle is menopause or choosing between transitioning to a different career or going to retirement.

References:

  1. Barry L. 5 reasons why female friendships are important for women’s health. Better Homes and Gardens. [Internet] 2019 [cited 7 April 2021] Available from: https://www.bhg.com.au/female-friendships

  2. Berkowitz G. UCLA Study On Friendship Among Women. Melissa Kaplan's Chronic Neuroimmune Diseases, Information on CFS, FM, MCS, Lyme Disease, Thyroid, and more [Internet] 2014. [cited 7 April 2021] Available from: http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/gender/tendfend.html

  3. Gilbere G. Female Friendship Good for Your Health. Total Health Magazine [Internet] 2019 [cited 7 April 2021] Available from: https://totalhealthmagazine.com/Lifestyle/Female-Friendship-Good-for-Your-Health.html

  4. Taylor S. Tend and Befriend Theory. University of California, Los Angeles. [Internet] 2014. [cited 7 April 2021] Available from: https://taylorlab.psych.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2014/11/2011_Tend-and-Befriend-Theory.pdf

  5. Brandt A. Are Female Friendships the Key to Happiness in Older Women? Psychology Today. [Internet] 2018 [cited 7 April 2021] Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-anger/201802/are-female-friendships-the-key-happiness-in-older-women