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Study finds stress might be contagious, but women unwind better than men do


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Photo: Stocksy/Kayla Snell

No one likes being stressed. Sure, it might motivate you to meet that deadline, but it can also lead to breaking out in hives (or is that just me?) and even to a cycle of overeating. And in case you needed another reason to learn (additional) methods of de-stressing, a new study found that stress, like the flu, could actually be contagious.

The study, published in the journal Nature, conducted a stress test on multiple pairs of mice: After spending time together, one was removed and one mouse was subjected to mild amounts of stress, and then the two were reunited. The researchers found that the effect of the stress on the hippocampus was mirrored in the brain of the mouse that had been left alone.

Although there is a limited applicability of the findings since humans are—well, not mice—study co-author Jaideep Bains, PhD, told Forbes, “Stress circuits in mice and humans are very similar. In particular, the cells we investigated in mice play the exact same role in humans—they control the hormonal response to stress.”

The mice passed on stress to each other through a sort of alarm pheromone, and though humans don’t have a known equivalent for that pheromone, recent studies have suggested that there is a subtle subconscious emotional communication between people, Forbes reports.

The study found that the stressed female mice were able to counteract the negative effects by socializing with other less stressed mice, while male mice clung to their stress.

It’s not all bad news, though: The study found that the stressed female mice were able to counteract the negative effects by socializing with other, less stressed mice, while male mice were more likely to cling to their stress. So, let’s add that to the large and growing list of ways women rise above men.

Stress may be contagious, but so is happiness—that’s why you should find a job that you (and your coworkers) love.

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