Friendships are a key factor to a happy middle age and beyond. According to a recent study published in the ‘Journal of Women and Aging’, staying close with friends into midlife can help lower the amount of stress-related hormones we might have, too.
“Women have evolved an alternative mechanism in response to stress,” says one of the researchers Michelle Rodrigues, “In order to deal with it, they can befriend female peers.”
Yes, our mates work as a stress buffer: talking about our problems to them (instead of seeking negative coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol or smoking) would help us keep cortisol at bay. What’s more, the authors of the study found that women of a certain age have an easier time when communicating with strangers compare to younger ladies, and that positively affects stress levels.
“While women between 18 and 25 years old could socialise more efficiently with their friends by using fewer words, they struggled to communicate with people who they don’t know – Michelle Rodrigues explains-. On the other hand, the group over age 62 could easily socialise with both strangers and friends and that ability actually helped them by limiting the release of stress hormones”.
As we move through life, we develop a better way of empathizing with people and we are also able to make and keep friends in different ways. Some ladies are more independent; they make friends wherever they go and may have more friendly acquaintances than deep friendships. Others are discerning, meaning they have a few best friends they stay close with over the years, investing in a deep relationship with their peers. It’s this kind of relationship, though, that would work best for our well-being.
As actress, producer and activist Jane Fonda remarked several times, women can do wonders especially when they support each other:
I think that is one reason why women live longer than men. Friendship between women is different from friendship between men. We talk about different things. We delve deep. We go under, even if we haven’t seen each other for years. There are hormones that are released from women to other women that are healthy and do away with the stress hormones. It’s my women friends that keep starch in my spine and without them, I don’t know where I would be. We have to just hang together and help each other.
Whatever your approach to friendship, just remember family relationships often come with a dose of guilt and obligation. On the other hand, friends are the antidote to the burdens of daily life and a loyal one will always give you support without judgment, coming through in a crisis, and knowing just the right thing to say when it matters most.
Of course, the advantage of being friends should be mutual. Be there, when they need you most.