Men's friendship protects against stress

Contact with good buddies dampens the physical stress response to strains

Best friends: Two male Barbary Monkeys with a cub © Hilgartner / Affenberg Salem
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Anyone who has good friends, lives healthier: friendships have a positive effect on the stress level in men as well - and that applies to people as well as to our Apache relatives. One study shows that male Barbary monkeys, who are a lot related to their "buddies", have less stress hormones in the body. So far, this stress-relieving effect of friendships, especially in women, has been studied.

People who maintain close social relationships are less likely to get sick, as several studies have shown. They are less likely to suffer from infections, heart disease and chronically elevated stress hormones. However, these effects have mostly been proven in mothers with children or close friendships with women. One reason for this: "In stressful situations, women tend to seek social support rather than men, " explain Christopher Young from the University of Göttingen and his colleagues.

Buddy instead of competitors

Relationships between men are more competitive in most primates: they are rivals for the favor of potential partners and for the provision of food. Nevertheless, there are very close male friendships, especially in humans, but also in some monkey species. Barbary apes, for example, form smaller cliques of "buddies" who often spend time together.

Young and his colleagues used this to investigate how these male friendships affect their stress levels on male Barbary macaques in the Middle Atlas in Morocco. To do so, the researchers observed the behavior of males and their response to stress factors such as aggression by other group members or cold. To find out how strong their physical stress response turned out, the scientists collected the manure from the manure and analyzed it for the content of stress hormones.

Good buddy - less stress hormones

The result: the closer the Barbary Macaque males were to their male cliques, the better they came to grips with stress. Especially at high loads, then the stress hormone content in her feces dropped significantly when they were with their "friends" together. "We were surprised to be able to show the stress-buffering effect even for close relationships between males, " says co-author Julia Ostner from the University of Göttingen. display

Although male friendships are rather rare in animals, they obviously have a clearly positive effect if they exist. The contact with the buddies was also much more positive than that with other members of the group. "Apparently, the social bonds between men act as a buffer against the negative effects of everyday stress, " the researchers explain. "They dampen the physiological stress response."

According to the scientists, this find confirms the already assumed positive effect of male friendships in humans as well: those who have good buddies are better at dealing with the stress of everyday life and stay healthier. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 2014; doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1411450111)

(Georg-August-Universit t G ttingen, 09.12.2014 - NPO)