A Woman's Words Will
Help You Cope With Stress
By Roger Highfield
The more women friends you have, the better you can cope with the kind of stress linked with heart disease, according to one of a series of stress studies published this week.
Words of comfort from a man can have the opposite effect from that intended, says the report in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
In one experiment at University of California, Irvine, men and women were asked to make an impromptu five-minute speech as a stress test. When a woman listener in the support role provided sympathetic nods, smiled and laughed, and murmured "good point" now and then, the speakers showed a modest blood pressure increase. But when men provided similar feedback, the average rise was 25 per cent higher - more than if the men had acted in a neutral way.
The data does not explain why support from women is more effective. However, Dr Laura Glynn, the lead author, says the finding is consistent with the idea that married men are healthier than single men. It explains why women do not profit as much from marriage or suffer as much from its break-up - because the support that they gain or lose from men is less effective. Suffering connected with premenstrual stress syndrome may depend on what women think they should experience. Dr Maria Marvan and a colleague at the Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico, showed a 10-minute videotape describing PMS and its effects to half of a group of 86 factory workers who had few preconceptions about PMS. The other half saw a videotape simply describing the menstrual cycle.
The PMS videotape had a dramatic effect: while 51 per cent of the experimental group reported no premenstrual symptoms before seeing it, the number fell to two per cent after the video. While two per cent had moderate symptoms before and none had severe symptoms, this rose to 54 per cent and seven per cent, respectively.
A combination of high job stress and family responsibilities causes significant increases in blood pressure for white-collar women with a university degree. Unlike men, their blood pressure remains high after work. Quebec City research institutes found that two or more children, and housework, significantly contributed to increased blood pressure.