June 8th, 2009
02:41 PM ET

Women benefit from female friendships

By Jennifer Pifer-Bixler
CNN Medical Senior Producer

My husband just got back from a long trip. And while I missed him terribly (hi honey, in case you are reading!), I have a confession: There was an upside to his absence. I went on a "girlfriend-palooza." From dinners to extended phone calls, it was nice spending quality time with friends. Now don't get me wrong, we have an active “couple” social life. But ladies, let's be honest, there is something different about just hanging with the girls. Laughing and dishing can do wonders for your mood.

Reseachers at the University of Michigan say there is some science behind the high we can get from hanging out with friends. Here's how they figured it out: The researchers took saliva samples from 160 female college students. Then, the women were put in pairs. One group performed an emotionally neutral task: proofreading a botany manuscript together. Then the other pairs played a “get-to-know-you” game, where they shared intimate information with each other. Afterwards, both sets of pairs played cards together on the computer. Then they gave another saliva sample. And here's what researchers found: The women who spent time talking and getting to know each other had higher progesterone levels. Other research has found that progesterone acts kind of like anti-anxiety medication, according to lead researcher, Dr. Stephanie Brown. On top of that, the study also found higher levels of progesterone were linked to a greater willingness to sacrifice for another person, even if it could mean danger to them.

Researchers say this study could help explain the connection between biology and social behavior. "These links may help us understand why people in close relationships are happier, healthier and live longer than those who are socially isolated," says lead researcher, Dr. Stephanie Brown.

I want to know what you think. Do you find hanging out with your girlfriends makes you feel better? Also – this study didn't look at guys- but I would be curious to know from our male readers – does your mood improve after hanging out with your friends?

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