In high school and college, it appeared easier to make friends. Why, though, is that? Proximity (living near your pals) and accidental interactions are two of the reasons (running into the same people many times). As we progress into the “real world,” these synchronicities appear to become less common. Furthermore, as people get older, marry or enter long-term partnerships, and have children, it becomes more difficult to make time for friends.

Yet, especially for women, friendship is critical to our health. According to a UCLA study, having few close friends is just as bad for your health as being overweight. Women do not go into “fight-or-flight” mode when they are stressed, as men do. The hormone oxytocin (the same “bonding” hormone released during sex) is released under stressful situations, and it acts as a buffer between the fight-or-flight reaction and the fight-or-flight response. Oxytocin motivates women to care for their children and socialise with other women, and this “caring” or “befriending” produces more oxytocin, calming them down even more.

Men do not have this relaxing response because when they are stressed, they create a lot of testosterone, which mutes the effect of oxytocin. Estrogen appears to improve it. Friendship also helps to lower blood pressure, increase immunity, and promote healing, which could explain why women have lower incidences of heart disease and live longer than males. According to research, women have more friends than males.

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