Doses of friendship improve health of women over 50

Sure, you’ve heard that diet and exercise may improve health, but if you’re tired of that overused prescription (and maybe feeling guilt from not following it), here’s another way for women of a certain age to feel healthier: spend time with your women friends. Easy, right?

There is scientific evidence (Mayo Clinic) and loads of anecdotal evidence that women interacting with other women reduces their stress. The gem that gets turned on is the hormone, oxytocin. That’s why you feel so happy, calm, and/or comforted after spending time with friends.

I relate to this so well. Once a month, after I attend my all-female book group, I feel that warm, cozy feeling long afterward. When I had responsibilities of elder-care for my parents who lived 2,300 miles away, I remember calling a friend to take a walk, meet for a drink, have dinner, or go to a movie. To be able to vent, cry, laugh, and hug a friend in time of need made all the difference to me. I could list a thousand more times, when women friends have made my life’s joys more of a celebration, and my difficult times less painful.

In my novel, A Tight Grip, friendship plays a major theme for Par Parker, the main character. Here’s an excerpt:

Par’s group of friends was the one consistent positive in her life. They had all become close in high school. They had shared makeup, passed boyfriends among one another, partied at keggers, played euchre late at night, dabbled in shoplifting, learned their first dance moves from Pinky’s older sisters. They had inhaled their first drags of cigarettes and tokes of marijuana together. They had launched themselves into the adult world of college and marriage with one another close by, organized high school reunions, traveled to Mackinac Island and Saugatuck for their thirtieth and fortieth birthdays (husbands not allowed). They sampled escargot, steak tartare, raw oysters, and they swallowed these new tastes with champagne. They played hockey for eight seasons to reduce the boredom of harsh winters, until Gail broke her ankle. They helped one another through parental illnesses and sibling strife, weight gains and losses, teeth-whitening options, husband troubles, health issues, buying and remodeling and selling homes, and at one point, during a particularly long winter, there was talk—only talk—of swapping houses. 

Par’s group of friends are always there for her, and she really needs their support.

If this post resonates with you, please send me a comment or two.

Below is a link to an article on the subject of women, aging, health, and oxytocin by Suzanne Braun Levine, or you can listen to Suzanne being interviewed. I found it insightful, and affirming. Thank you Suzanne and NPR station WRVO!

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