Researchers such as Klein and her colleague Shelley Taylor found that while men will react single-handedly to a stressful situation, women’s priority seems to be to seek out other females. When they engage in this “tending or befriending” – a term coined by Klein and Taylor – a chemical called oxytocin is released, which counters stress and has a calming effect.
But before we fellas think we’re capable of emulating this life-prolonging feat,
“This calming response does not occur in men because testosterone, which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress, seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin,” says Klein. “Oestrogen seems to enhance it. There was this joke in the lab that when the women who worked there were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded. When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to Shelley Taylor that nearly 90 per cent of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were on to something.”