March 29

Hanging Out With Friends in Times of Stress Heals Us by Rewiring Our Biology

Wilfred Scott
Core Spirit member since Dec 24, 2020
Reading time 3 minutes

Whether offering us consolation after the death of a loved one or commiseration when our team loses yet again, our social relationships are invaluable for helping us lead happier, less stressful lives. And humans aren’t alone in this respect. The role of social interactions and bonds in reducing stress has been studied in many species, from rats to elephants.

But the jury is still out on how friends help us to cope with stress at a physiological level. Now new research into the role of relationships among chimpanzees suggests that friends don’t just create a “social buffer” by helping us during stressful times—they may also reduce our overall stress levels just by being present in our lives, regulating the way our bodies manage stress-indicating hormones.

Stress has been explored extensively in numerous non-human primates, including chimpanzees, macaques, and baboons, and we know it can be devastating. For example, high stress levels in baboons can cause gastrointestinal ulcers and even early death. Strong social bonds appear to act as a buffer against the worst consequences of stress. There are broad health benefits to this, for instance a surprising increase in infant survival among less-stressed baboon mothers.

When it comes to what’s happening inside the body, we know that a good social environment correlates with a drop in stress-indicating hormones such as glucocorticoids. But we don’t know exactly how it happens.

Social buffer

A newly-published article in Nature Communications looks into two possible mechanisms behind the way social bonds act as a buffer to stress in chimpanzees. The researchers looked at two contrasting theories: whether “bond partners” (the chimpanzee equivalent of friends) just make particularly stressful times less so, or whether the effects of this partnership are felt throughout the day.

The researchers watched wild chimpanzees at a long-established Ugandan field site (Sonso) over two years, noting a range of aggressive and affiliative social interactions. This included times when the animals were resting, grooming each other, and when they saw or heard members of other chimp groups. The researchers measured the chimps’ stress levels by extensively collecting urine samples to test for the presence of glucocorticoids.

To create a potentially stressful situation, an experienced field assistant waited until small groups of the chimps were near their territory borders and then drummed on the large root buttresses of trees. This replicated the drumming sounds chimps make to communicate within and between social groups. The aim was to see how these drumming encounters were perceived by individual chimps depending on their social support.

The hormone levels in the chimps’ urine showed that, perhaps unsurprisingly, they tended to be more stressed when they encountered (or thought they had encountered) animals from other groups. But the research also showed that the social relationships appeared to limit stress all the time, not just in the most stressful situations. This suggests it is important for chimps to have “bond partners” with whom they regularly engage in friendly and cooperative behavior and rarely are aggressive towards.

It appears that both in and out of stressful situations, the daily presence of bond partners actually regulates the system that manages the body’s hormones, reducing an individual’s overall stress. While active support of a bond partner reduces glucocorticoid levels the most, their mere presence also leads to less stress.

Although not proven in this study, the authors believe that oxytocin (often referred to as the “love hormone”) may be responsible for this regulation. More generally, this hormone balance may also help improve the immune system, cardio function, fertility, mood, and even cognition.

It is easy to mentally replace the chimpanzees in this study with humans, and use the term “friends” instead of “bond partners.” We all recognize that hard times are easier with a friendly shoulder to cry on. Even in a day-to-day context, our lives are a little bit brighter when we know our friends are there.

But this paper reveals that the construction and maintenance of such close social bonds with others has significant, measurable benefits for the physical and mental well-being of chimpanzees, and is regulated at a physiological level. Not only could this help further our understanding of the evolution of human social behavior, but it may also influence the way we face and tackle both physical illnesses and mental health problems across human communities.

Tom Jacobs/Pacific Standard

Comments

Leave your questions here

To write a comment you must
or
Services
Category filter
Concern filter
Type filter
Sort
 
All categories
Art Therapy
$50 USD
Artist Teacher Workshop Or Tutoring

“Life Force” guiding our history, our body and spirits. Self portrait art, life drawing from the live model, gesture, and plein air painting. And extended cont…

Bryan Prillwitz
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$100 USD
Timeline Reading

EGYPTIAN TAROT READINGS using unique methods developed by Nelise Carbonare, a Brazilian healer with more than 40 years of experience in tarot consultations, as…

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$120 USD
THE SYNERGY OF THE PYRAMID

THE SYNERGY OF THE PYRAMID focuses on a specific relationship: One side for the consultant and one for their partner. (the partner does not need to be present …

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
Pick one card

Many questions can be answer with just one Arcane.

Do you want to try?

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$50 USD
Spiritual Coaching - Removing Energy Blocks - Expansion

> “Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.” Jung

Spiritual coaching is about moving you into a profound state of empowerment and involution m…

Kimla Rose (Kim Desrosiers)
United States of America flag icon
Life Coaching
$10 USD
Life Purpose and Soul Wisdom

What is your deeper truth, your deeper knowing, your MOJO, your deepest desires, those feelings that you can’t explain but that are so pure and so clear…or may…

Anna Beale
United States of America flag icon
Wellness Coaching
$10 USD
Your Missing Manual for Health & Life!

Are you constantly reading books, blogs and listening to podcasts trying to figure out what to do to be healthy?

With so much conflicting information out ther…

Pamela Malo
United States of America flag icon
Nutritional Therapy
$150 USD
Nutritional Therapy Consultation

Hi my name is Aria and I am the founder of Heal with Nutrition. I am a registered Nutritional Therapist and a Naturopath who has a passion on Nutrition and Hea…

Aria Alexandrou
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
THOTH AND HERMETIC DECKS READING

With a deep knowledge of hermeticism and being introduced to the kabbalah tradition of the emanation process from the tree of life, I provide a deep insight co…

James Marchiori
Ireland flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$55 USD
The Bridge to Your Desired Life

This is were you get real help with your struggles and life challenges. As life gets harder to cope with, we tend to look for external ways to get through. And…

Mina Mikhail
United States of America flag icon
Naturopathy
$10 USD
Intake Consult

short introduction consult to Integrative Medicine

Femke Neervoort
Netherlands flag icon
Career Coaching
$300 USD
Reset Coaching and Mentoring Programme

12 weeks of bi-weekly 90 minutes 1:1 Coaching and Mentoring. Total cost USD1800 (6x90minutes career coaching and mentoring session)

Are you returning to work …

Carla Martins
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$120 USD
Spiritual Life Coach Session-Personalized Session

Personalized Sessions

Because Everyone Is Unique

Client-centered sessions based on the area of focus requested by the client.

Each session is a LIVE Sessio…

Deborah Lucero
United States of America flag icon
Reiki
$55 USD
Guidance, Inspiration & Healing

This type of session is a favorite among many of my clients, as it is often times one of the smoothest way to address a challenge to reach a happier and health…

Mina Mikhail
United States of America flag icon
Mediumism
$10 USD
Psychic Readings

I specialize in love, past present future, future, past life, general, tarot, dream interpretation, specific, social, and career readings! Book today for clari…

Holly
United States of America flag icon
Life Coaching
$399 USD
1-on-1 Coaching

The journey started with our discovery call, and You decided: ” I’m ready! Let’s do this!”.

We will engage in 1-on-1 coaching sessions for 90 minutes. In this…

Carla Martins
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Ascension
$88 USD
Ascension Mentor Support

In this session, we come together with similar to a healing session but face to face.

We talk about what issues you are facing at the moment and we delve deep…

Claire C.
Australia flag icon
Spiritual Healing
$177 USD
Energy Healing

I am honored to assist you with intuitive channeled energy healings that support and nurture you on a physical level as well soul and energetic level, each ses…

Claire C.
Australia flag icon
Reiki
$375 USD
Usui Reiki 1st Degree Course

FIRST DEGREE COURSE - The ultimate Reiki course.

Have you ever wondered if you can heal? Have you felt a burning desire to help others? Then you’ve come to th…

Step Into Your Light - Christina Moore
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Life Coaching
$10 USD
Hand Analysis - Startup Session

What does a hand analysis do for me? ​

You will understand yourself and your life purpose. ​You will understand the roots of your triggers and reactionary be…

Brent Bruning, Master Hand Analyst
Switzerland flag icon
Shamanism
$10 USD
Sample Akashic Records Reading for Your Burning Issue

I connect to your Akashic Records and listen to what your guides want to bring to your conscoius attention at this time. Perhaps, it is an insight into why you…

Olga Aydınoğlu
Turkey flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$300 USD
Shamanic Healing Art

What is Shamanic Healing Art?

It is a physical artwork (usually a pastel drawing) I make for you based on the outcome of our online session. This artwork will…

Olga Aydınoğlu
Turkey flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$70 USD
Heal to say "No"

A limits and boundaries shamanic healing session to help you heal relevant wounds and traumas from this and/or other lifetimes, let go of false beliefs, judgem…

Olga Aydınoğlu
Turkey flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$70 USD
Writer's Block Shamanic Healing Session

Before the Session

I do my pre-meditation to find out the main reasons for your writer’s block. (This happens psychically, where I generally just need your na…

Olga Aydınoğlu
5
Turkey flag icon

Related Articles