Health Topics

Embrace the bromance! Male bonding is good for your health


February 6, 2018

A study shows that male bonding may reduce your stress or help you adapt to stressful situations.


Guys! Science says a night out with your bros after a long day is good for you — or at least the bonding that goes along with it. According to a new study performed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, friendships among men could be important for helping them cope with and become more resilient to stress.

The study, performed on male rats, demonstrated that exposure to mild stress made the rats more social and cooperative. They came together or huddled and touched more and showed increased levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that in humans is associated with empathy, relationship building, trust and more. Essentially, stress increased bonding in the male rats, and then they used that togetherness to better recuperate from their troubling experiences.

So what do the study results tell us about human male relationships?

“It suggests something that we are aware of: Having strong relationships is important regardless of gender,” said Nathaniel Clark, M.D., associate professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Men and women may behave and express affection differently in same-gender friendships, but the same foundations of trust and mutual respect are present.”

The results are a great reminder that men, and all people for that matter, should mindfully schedule time to connect with their friends and potentially reap the benefits of boosted well-being. But what if you’ve recently moved or life has gotten busy and you’re out of touch with the folks who matter most? Plus, is there a formula for how often you should get together with the guys?


Are you on the search for more male friends?

Making friends as adults can be a little more complex than as children when we were constantly surrounded by our peers. Plus, adulthood brings with it job changes that require long-distance moves or life changes — like romantic relationships or child rearing — that consume time and alter the course of our long-standing friendships. Although it may seem tricky to make new friends, Clark said that potential relationships are all around us in multiple settings like work or through our favorite activities. He recommends adult learning classes, volunteering or joining hobby or special-interest groups.

“Making new friends or strengthening old relationships involves taking a risk and making yourself feel vulnerable,” he said. He notes that this can be difficult for some, but that having friendships is important. “Research suggests that loneliness can have negative effects on physical and psychological health — including cardiovascular risks, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as cognitive functioning in the elderly.”


How often is often enough?

Each individual will require a different amount of social interaction, and that amount may change from week to week or month to month, Clark said. Plus, the nature of a person’s friendships will determine how beneficial they are to him. “With any relationship,” Clark explained, “allowing it to grow and mature over time will tell you how frequently you can draw on its strengths.”

Although we thrive from quality time with others, we also need time to ourselves to be mindful and to reflect, Clark added. How much alone time a man will require for his health will also depend on the individual. Clark recommends that men take stock of their social well-being occasionally and determine if they need to make any changes.