I’ve always struggled to understand my wife at times.
And the same thing with girlfriends that I’ve had. They have always seemed to have one thing in common.
Women in my life always seem to stress out too much
And here is concrete evidence that this is so, and why it is so.
For example, in this study, you can see that women are far more likely to have stress-related problems that men are:
This study found clear differences between how males and females handle stress
It was a very complicated study. But it showed that there are big differences in the level of hormones, and brain chemicals, how male rats handle stress versus how female rats handle stress.
It’s confirmation that women suffer a lot more emotional distress in general than men do.
Of course, there could be other reasons for this.
I think one reason is that women have higher estrogen levels than men do. At least premenopausal women have higher estrogen levels than middle-aged men.
As men get older, their estrogen levels tend to rise, and this is not a good thing.
But estrogen is a stress hormone. It is related to cells swallowing up, taking more water on, and multiplying quickly, rather than efficiently doing their job.
Estrogen is helpful for a woman who wants to have a baby because the body has to multiply cells rapidly, take on water, and focus more on expansion and efficiency.
But estrogen is also a big drag for women, as well as for older men.
Same thing goes for the other stress hormones such as prolactin, and cortisol, and serotonin. These are probably higher in women than they are in men also.
So if this is all true, why do women live longer than men live in general?
Good question. I will try to answer that in the future.
One thing that may be making women live longer is the fact that iron levels in women accumulate at a slower rate than they do in men.
As you may have seen from a prior newsletter, iron levels accumulating as we get older are largely responsible, some think, for aging and premature death.
Women’s iron levels are lower than men’s.
Maybe this is why women live longer.
Also, women’s levels of hormones such as progesterone, that are highly protective, is also higher than those levels in men.
Note that both men and women have all the same hormones.
There is no such thing as a male hormone or a female hormone.
All men and women have testosterone, prolactin, oxytocin, estrogen, progesterone, etc.
The only differences are in the levels, and when these levels peak.
But back to the study. Women have a lot more stress in their lives.
There is evidence here that that is a physiologically rooted reason.
It also could be that women are smaller, and must bear the burden of having babies.
This means that women are more helpless than men. They just are.
And so perhaps, this helplessness, this dependence on men, results in higher stress levels, and a physiological basis found in the study.
At the very least, this has given me new empathy for what my wife is going through.
You can’t get into someone’s brain, but with studies like this, you can remember to have a little more empathy.
We are not all exactly the same. We don’t all perceive stress the same way.
Sex differences in stress-related psychiatric disorders: Neurobiological perspectives
Sex differences in corticotropin-releasing factor receptor signaling and trafficking: potential role in female vulnerability to stress-related psychopathology