Crossroads for Women often talks about using a relational model when treating clients for mental health and substance abuse issues. This model is different from a traditional substance abuse model that is more confrontational (think intervention) and largely designed for and by men. Being women-focused for almost 35 years, we’ve found (and other studies back this up) that women tend to open up more and feel more comfortable in women-only groups. A new study coming out of University of Michigan seems to back this up.
According to the study, published in the June 2009 journal Hormones and Behavior, feeling emotionally close to a friend increases levels of the hormone progesterone, helping to boost well-being and reduce anxiety and stress. Thus, “girl talk” may actually improve our mental health.
The study looked at the link between progesterone, a sex hormone that fluctuates with the menstrual cycle and is also present in low levels in men and post-menopausal women, and interpersonal closeness. Researchers found that progesterone levels of women who had engaged in emotionally neutral tasks together tended to decline, while the progesterone levels of women who engaged in activities designed to elicit feelings of closeness either increased or remained the same. After the participants returned a week late to complete the same tasks, it was found that higher progesterone levels actually predicted an increased willingness for participants to say they would risk their life to help their partner.
According to Univerity of Michigan researcher Stephanie Brown, “Many of the hormones involved in bonding and helping behavior lead to reductions in stress and anxiety in both humans and other animals. Now we see that higher levels of progesterone may be part of the underlying physiological basis for these effects.”
So, keep talking and bonding women! It’s good for your health.