Stress response: men and women differ

The discovery of how women’s responses to stress are different than men came about in a casual conversation between two University (UCLA) women scientists, Laura Cousino Klein, PhD and Shelley Taylor who noted their reactions to work stress were different than their male colleagues.

They started hunting down some studies on how men and women responded to stress to see if there were any distinguishing differences. What they didn’t find were the studies that focused on this but what they did find was that 90% of studies on stress responses were done on men. This led to a drive to include women in stress research and the results confirm what most of us already know: women when stressed will tend and befriend – women automatically respond either by looking for a friend to share with and/or begin care-taking others.

The resulting studies were posted in an article written by Gale Berkowitz in 2002. And as old as it is by scientific standards, it needs repeating because most of us don’t know this study or we have forgotten it. It seems that oxytocin, a calming hormone that’s released after a serious stressful event is supported by estrogen in women – the same calming hormone women release in childbirth that insures bonding – men on the other hand because of high levels of testosterone, may cancel out the oxytocin. Thus, they may behave aggressively or withdraw and wait it out. Women seek out friends and that may be one reason they/we live longer. The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School cited in the same article found that “the more friends women have, the less likely they are to develop physical impairments as they age.

This is simplistic by it gives you the idea. Yes, women and men are different. On the other hand, if you have ever been around combat veterans in a group, you will see incredible nurturing and care-taking going on – what they call comradery, women call love.

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