Women can reduce their stress levels by talking often to a close circle of friends, according to a new study.
Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found in a new study that communicating with female friends decreases stress hormone levels for women throughout life.
They tested a pool of 32 women; 16 older adults aged 62-79 and 16 younger adults aged 18-25. Each participant was either paired with a friend or a stranger as a conversation partner.
The partnerships underwent a series of conversational challenges, wherein the participant instructed her partner to arrange a set of tangram puzzles in an order that only the former could see.
During the challenges, they tested levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with raised stress levels, and found that those working with familiar partners had reduced amounts of the hormone.
"When you experience something stressful, if you have a stress response system that's working as it should, the result is an elevated amount of cortisol, our primary stress hormone, which then tells our bodies to release glucose into our bloodstreams," former Beckman Institute postdoctoral researcher Michelle Rodrigues said.
"That's reflected in our saliva about 15 to 20 minutes after we experience it. If we see a rise in salivary cortisol from an individual's baseline levels, that indicates that they are more stressed than they were at the time of the earlier measurements."
The reduced levels of cortisol were present across all age groups. Younger people were found to communicate more efficiently with familiar partners than their older counterparts, while older people were better at communicating with people they were unfamiliar with.
The study was published in the Journal of Women & Aging.