"Bromances" Are Good For Men's Health Says Science, So Maybe It's Time We Stop Being Weird About Men Having Close Friendships
Turns out "bromances" aren't just trendy and a kind of amusing term, they're also healthy. A new study says that "bromances" are good for men's health — in other words, that men need emotional connection and close personal relationships just as much as the rest of us do. And so if calling meaningful friendships "bromances" makes them more comfortable with it, then I suppose that's a good thing.
Now to be fair, the study in question focuses on rats, not humans, but its findings support research on human interaction as well. Researchers already knew that rats who live in male-female pairs are less susceptible to the negative effects of stress, and tend to be healthier and live longer. Moreover, the same trends are found in humans, possibly thanks to the hormone oxytocin, which is associated with all sorts of positive things, especially bonding with another human.
To see if those same results held true among men, researchers at University of California, Berkeley paired male rats together instead and looked to see how they fared. And lo and behold, they found that male rats paired together were also better able to cope with stress and recovered from negative experiences faster, plus showed higher levels of oxytocin.
Which means that, if we assume that these results hold just as true in humans as the findings about male-female pairings did, then it's psychologically healthy for men to have emotionally close friendships with one another. Call it a "bromance," call it meaningful human connection, call it whatever you want, but dudes still need it.
“A bromance can be a good thing,” said lead author Elizabeth Kirby. “Males are getting a bad rap when you look at animal models of social interactions, because they are assumed to be instinctively aggressive. But even rats can have a good cuddle — essentially a male-male bromance — to help recover from a bad day.”
It's certainly true that our society often discourages men from forming strong emotional attachments. Modern Western ideas about masculinity emphasize strength and dominance, and paint needing other people in any capacity — or simply feeling emotion at all — as weakness. The result is a social construction of masculinity that is not only incredibly fragile, but also isolating, especially when ideas about masculinity encounter the amount of homophobia also embedded in our culture. To be emotionally close with another man is not only not manly, it could also be perceived as being a romantic relationship — which also gets treated like some sort of failure of masculinity because homophobia is fun that way.
The whole thing sucks, and it's also bad for men. In some ways, the term "bromance" is a defense mechanism, a way of acknowledging something has overtones that could be seen as romantic, but aggressively rejecting those overtones by slapping the "bro" label — and all the masculinity it implies — right at the beginning. Of course, the fact that we need such a term at all for guys to feel comfortable with being friends is pretty depressing.
Men are human, and virtually all humans need connection; it's how our brains are wired. We need to be around other people, to interact, to connect, to feel close, to establish emotional bonds. It's a normal, healthy part of being a person. And last I checked, dudes are still people, just like the rest of us.
So basically, guys, enjoy your bromances — or, as they're also known, friendships — and know that there's nothing wrong with getting close with people. In fact, it's probably good for your health.
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