The Healing Power of Female Friendships

Dear Friends,

I went to the movie Bridesmaids a couple of weeks ago with my sister, 3 sisters-in-law, and another friend. We all laughed so hard our cheeks hurt. It got me thinking about the importance of female friendship. I am lucky to be in regular contact with women I’ve known since 4th Grade. I have small groups of college and medical school friends that have hung on through the years. Even though many miles separate us, and we don’t see each other in person often, it doesn’t seem to matter. Enjoy today’s issue, and please pass it on to a few good girlfriends!

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. – Elizabeth Foley

From the Golden Girls to Friends, Sex in the City to the above mentioned, the Bridesmaids movie and beyond, media seems to understand the power of girlfriends. I feel deep gratitude for the friends that took me in for countless holidays when I lived far from family, and even shuttled me around for months after I broke my leg and couldn’t drive. Counting on girlfriends in good times and in bad is what we women do.

Studies show that our girlfriends may play a far greater role in our lives than we might imagine. Research on women and stress provide strong evidence that those chats with your girlfriends are vital to your health and may well help prolong your life. In June 2001, the renowned Harvard Medical School’s Nurses’ Health Study concluded that women’s social networks play an important role in enhancing our health and quality of life. The study went so far as to conclude that not having at least one good confidante is as detrimental to a woman’s health as being overweight or a heavy smoker.

Jeff Zaslow, the author of “The Girls from Ames” followed a group of girlfriends, now in their forties, who have known each other since childhood. He states, “I envy the ease with which women share their lives. I envy the vital ways they support each other emotionally, especially as they get older. Women’s friendships are face to face: they share their feelings, their emotions, their secrets. By contrast, men’s friendships are side by side: We do things together. We play golf or go to football games.”

Shelley E. Taylor, author and a world-renowned expert on stress and health, contends that women are genetically hard-wired for friendship as a means of coping with stress and, furthermore, we selectively seek out friendships with women…not men…when the chips are down. Taylor theorizes that a common female stress response is what she calls “tend and befriend.” She says our evolutionary heritage suggests women who formed strong bonds with one another were more apt to survive (as were their offspring) than those who did not. Over time, women have learned to turn to one another for support and solace and have thus become crucial to one another in times of stress. For most women, this protective effect trumps that provided by a spouse.

Hormones may play a role here too. Oxytocin, known as a calming hormone, is released into a woman’s bloodstream after childbirth to nurture the mother/baby bond. Interestingly, this is also released during stress and may be one of the driving forces behind forming and maintaining close social bonds, because it enhances the ability to nurture and be nurtured. “Because estrogen increases oxytocin’s effects, it’s likely to be more important in women’s stress response than men’s,” Taylor says.

Here’s to Girl’s Night Out, Spa Days, good conversation and great girlfriends!

Sometime this week, connect with your favorite girlfriends. It could save your life!

Dianna commented on last weeks issue: “You forgot to add the best memory tip for men: Take your wife with you and in the car, before arriving at an event, have her go through the invitees, their names, workplace, interesting facts…I call this using your wife’s mental hard-drive. Oh, I loved the part about writing in color. During college and grad school people marveled at my notes…each day/subject was in a different color. During an exam, I could mentally see the info I needed in its respective color; it works! Thanks for the great article, Sue.” Dianna Hansen (

p.s. I’d love to hear your comments and questions! What do you want to know, but are afraid to ask?

Enjoy a Positively Beautiful Life!

Dr. Susan Mathison

Susan Mathison, M.D.

Disclaimer:, only recommends products that we’ve either personally checked out ourselves, or that come from those we know and trust. For doing so, we receive a commission. We will never recommend any product that does not have a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee.

Nothing in this blog should be considered personalized healthcare advice. Although we may answer your general questions, no communication should be deemed as personalized healthcare advice.

There are no comments yet. Be the first and leave a response!

Leave a Reply

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software