Gossiping good for women’s health
Men might argue that the last thing women need is another reason to gossip but scientists have discovered that it could be good for their health.
The research reveals a woman is happier and healthier if she enjoys a regular chat with her female friend because it boosts levels of progesterone, a hormone shown to reduces levels of anxiety and stress.
Scientists at the University of Michigan, who carried out the study, said progesterone plays an important part in social bonding and also makes women more willing to help other people in trouble, even if it means risking their own lives in the process.
“Many of the hormones involved in bonding and helping behaviour lead to reductions in stress and anxiety,” said Professor Stephanie Brown, who led the research.
“Now we see that higher levels of progesterone may be part of the underlying basis of these effects.”
Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovaries in women.
Among other things, it prepares the womb for pregnancy, fights infection and stops the over-production of oestrogen that could raise the risk of cancer.
Scientists already knew higher levels of progesterone increased a woman’s desire to bond with others.
But the latest research, published in the journal Hormones and Behaviour, is the first to show gossiping and chatting can actually stimulate its production.
Researchers recruited 160 female students and took saliva samples to check their levels of progesterone.
They were then put in pairs. Half were given questions to ask each other designed to bring them closer together.
These included “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” and “What has been your greatest accomplishment?”
The other pairs were asked to proofread a research paper on botany together.
After 20 minutes, the volunteers had their hormone levels checked again.
The students who got to know each other through ‘chatty’ questions saw progesterone levels either stay the same or increase.
In the other group, progesterone actually declined.
Professor Brown added: “It’s important to find the links between biological mechanisms and human social behaviour. These links help us understand why people in close relationships are happier, healthier and live longer than those who are socially isolated.”