Your girlfriend has been telling you for years that you spend an ‘unhealthy’ amount of time with your bros.
Good news, guys: She’s wrong about your bromance. In fact, it’s actually good for your health.
A study by the University of California Berkeley has found that moderate stress encourages male bonding, and that social behaviour makes them more resilient to stress. In other words, it was stress that drove your fella into the arms of his buddies, and now some of that has been alleviated by the bromance itself. It’s a guy thing….
The study looked at rats who lived in the same cage (be very offended, men) and found that mildly stressful situations made male rats more sociable and cooperative than they were in a non-stressful environment. After the aforementioned mild stress, the rats showed increased levels of oxytocin (a hormone that plays a role in social bonding) and its receptor, and were seen huddling together and touching more.
In other words, they slapped each other on the back and talked about sports after someone moved their food bowl out of reach.
Previous studies show that social interaction can have health benefits for male-female rat pairings who have a romantic relationship. This most recent one, however, demonstrates the importance of male friendships in maintaining good health and lowering stress levels.
“A bromance can be a good thing,” said lead author Elizabeth Kirby. “Males are getting a bad rap when you look at animal models of social interactions, because they are assumed to be instinctively aggressive. But even rats can have a good cuddle – essentially a male-male bromance – to help recover from a bad day.”
However, when the stress levels became life-threatening, no amount of dude time could help matters. The rats avoided socializing and showed lower levels of oxytocin, which were akin to the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This in turn led to a spiraling decrease in bonding and resilience to stress.
The only difference between the two was the severity of the stressor – some of the rats were exposed to a neutral odour, while others were given that of a predator. As a result of the latter, they became withdrawn and antisocial, often sitting alone in the corner. They also started to see aggression between the rats, as they would in illnesses like depression or severe anxiety.
The researchers’ work attempts to treat PTSD with oxytocin nasal sprays by means of encouraging social interaction in the hope that it might lead to recovery. It explores how bringing people together after severe stress could help to remove traumatic memories and increase good mental health.
Kirby concluded that stress should not be seen as something unavoidable that we must endure. Instead, it should be viewed as an opportunity for greater social bonding.
In other words, if they’re playing video games and wrestling again, maybe just leave them to it.