Misery loves company may not actually be the most cynical phrase in the world. Sure, high levels of stress might increase your risk of heart disease and depression, but a recent study suggests that stress might also make you... friendlier.
The study, published in the journal Stress and Health, found that people who were having a bad day weren't just more likely to reach out for support. When you have a bad day, you're also more likely to provide support for someone else. By interviewing over 1,600 people for eight nights, researchers concluded that participants were twice as likely to receive or give support on days that they experienced stress themselves.
In other words, when your dad just won't stop texting you about family drama, you're twice as likely to check in with a friend about their emotions as you are on a less stressful day. These check-ins, the study found, don't just go one way. It's not just hey, my dad won't stop stressing me out today. It's also what's going on with you? and I'm sorry your boss is being a jerk again.
It's easy to get cynical about the studies' results — you reach out when you need to vent, then isolate yourself when you're done getting the support you need. Stress is stressful, you might argue, so mutual venting sessions can just be double the stress. According to the study, though, participants were 26% more likely to reach out to give support to friends the day after experiencing stress, too. Though participants of any gender were more likely to reach out when they were stressed than when they weren't, women told their friends about their stresses at higher rates than men.
What does that mean? Even as it undoubtedly feels crappy, stress might also be the push you need to reach out to your friends and give each other mutual support.
At the end of the (stressful) day, you deserve to reach out to receive emotional support. Chances are, hearing about your friend's stress will help you feel better about your own — not in a misery loves company so let's spiral each other down way, but in a we're both sad so let's help each other feel better way. Talking about your stress doesn't make you weak, and it doesn't make you a bad friend. In fact, it might make you an even more attentive friend.
Joo, S. (2020) Daily stressors facilitate giving and receiving of emotional support in adulthood. Stress and Health, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/smi.2927.