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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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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Lorie

    I have one really close friend who I enjoy hanging out with. We just get each other and I don't find that with very many people. I never understood how someone has many friends – I mean really good friends. In my experience when you get a whole lot of females together there is a lot to deal with – jealousy, pettiness, bullies, etc. I think in life you have one or two true friends – the rest are acquaintances.

    June 8, 2009 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. CA Dover, NH

    I have half a dozen friends I can call on a moments notice for support, a shoulder to cry on or a kick in the pants to get me moving. All are women–no men in the equation! I find women are far socially adept and have the ability to hold complex conversations without grunting. I feel I get great feedback and support in all areas of my life from these women, but we also work at communicating together. I do not have to contend with back-stabbing or pettiness because I choose to surround myself with emotionally mature women, not male-dependent overaged girls.

    June 12, 2009 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Becky Harmon

    Jennifer,
    I Life Coach men and women out of self sabotage and into success. I thought this was a great article. I also from my coaching perspective seen both men and women's dreams thrive when they feel supported and nutured. Having healthy friendships is not just helpful but vital to maintaining success.
    It has also been my observation that people self medicate quite a bit wth alcohol/drugs when they do not have deep valuable friendships. Bec:)

    June 22, 2009 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Claudia Loomis, CA

    I have really great girlfriends. Some are still working and others are retired. We get together often – do an annual golf trip together. During the holidays we pool our cash and support local families. We inspire each other to better ourselves personally and professionally. If one of us needs help, we are there for each other. Statistically, it's likely that we'll outlive our darling men and end up alone...with all the money and each other.

    June 23, 2009 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
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  6. brax

    Frankly, I'd rather take a pill than spend time with a group of women. Groups of women turn into gossipy, jealous petty monsters and cause more anxiety. I like spending time with one really good friend who understands me or with a good mix of men and women- it sure beats the drama.

    November 8, 2010 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.