I love you, man: New research suggests bromances improve men’s health

A bromance may be good for your health, fellas.
A bromance may be good for your health, fellas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo/Sony - Columbia Pictures, Ed Araquel

You watch football and grill steaks together. While you may not have deep conversations or swap personal details about your lives, new research suggests bromances are incredibly helpful for men’s health, lowering stress and even leading to longer, healthier lives.

The California scientists even say that bromances reap the same benefits as what couples gain from romantic relationships.

“A bromance can be a good thing,” co-researcher, Dr. Elizabeth Kirby, said. She began her research on male relationships as a doctoral student at the University of California Berkeley. She’s still forging ahead with her research in this field as a post-doc fellow at Stanford right now.

She worked with male rats to study social interaction and how male bonding alleviated stress in the rodents. Turns out, their huddling together helped them recover from trauma.

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“Having friends is not un-masculine. These rats are using their rat friendships to recover from what would otherwise be a negative experience…even rats can have a good cuddle – essentially a male-male bromance – to help recover from a bad day,” she explained.

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For her research, she housed male rats in the same cage and exposed them to stressful situations, such as restraining them and then introducing the scent of a predator (a fox) to induce fear.

Turns out, in these stressful situations, the rats came together. Their oxytocin levels increased, too. (Oxytocin is dubbed the cuddle hormone because it encourages people, or in this case, mice, to bond.)

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“We think oxytocin, which is released after stress, is a way of bringing people closer in times of acute stress, which leads to more sharing, bonding, and potentially better fear extinction and an increase in cognitive health,” Sandra Muray, a Berkeley student who launched the research during her undergraduate career, said in a statement.

The rats were more likely to cooperate, and wouldn’t fight over water and food. They’d even huddle together.

The findings make sense to Dr. Oren Amitay, a Toronto-based clinical psychologist and Ryerson University instructor.

“The need for esteem or validation is almost a biological need for humans,” he said, especially for men because their identities could be tied up in their careers, and not necessarily their relationships.

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“If one’s sense of esteem comes from their work and that’s constantly in peril, they’re questioning who they are and if they’re on the right path. It’s hard to maintain a positive outlook,” he explained.

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What bromances do is create an understanding between men – even if they aren’t truly understood, the feeling is enough to provide solace during difficult times.

“The idea of a bromance is to be with someone who accepts who you are,” he said.

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