Whether it's a movie starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, or it's Joey and Chandler from Friends, Hollywood tends to portray male friendships in a comedic light. But a good 'bromance' offers more than just bachelor parties and fist bumps. 

The Health Benefits of Male Friendship

A new study published in Neuropsychopharmacology highlights the benefits of male friendship. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, studied how friendship affects male rats.

When housed together, male rats frequently display aggression toward one another. They often fight over food and water.

After being subjected to mild stress, however, the rats became more cooperative and increasingly social. They stopped fighting and they treated one another in a much more civil manner. They huddled together and sought comfort from one another.

Huddling with the other rates led to increased oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is a feel good hormone that appeared to help the rats cope with stress.

The researchers say a good bromance will release oxytocin in the human brain as well. And increased oxytocin can help men live longer, healthier lives.

The Benefits of Oxytocin

Although oxytocin is often referred to as 'the love hormone' an emotionally intense platonic relationship also increases oxytocin. Here are just a few benefits men gain from increased oxytocin in the brain:

  • Pain relief. Oxytocin has been associated with decreased pain and improved healing speed. Studies show it can even raise your pain threshold.
  • Lower cortisol levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can have harmful effects on your body, ranging from increased abdominal fat to decreased immunity. Studies show oxytocin reduces the amount of cortisol that is released in response to stressful situations.
  • Increased generosity. Oxytocin has been found to boost altruism. In one study, participants who were given oxytocin were 80% more generous than the individuals who were given a placebo.  

Why Women Should Encourage the Bromance

Although wives and girlfriends may be tempted to complain about the amount of time a man spends with his friends, a bromance could actually lead to improved romantic relationships. The oxytocin released when a man spends time with his friends promotes social bonding with anyone perceived to be in a person's 'inner circle.'

A  2012 study published in Biological Psychiatry found that oxytocin could help fathers bond more with their babies. Dads who got a boost of oxytocin via a nasal spray played more closely with their babies than dads who didn't get the hormone spray.

Oxytocin may also help men stay faithful to their partners. One study found that oxytocin led men in monogamous relationships to keep a greater distance between themselves and an attractive woman during an initial encounter. Researchers suspect this may be to avoid signaling romantic interest toward other women.

So the next time you're tempted to chuckle over a bromance, remember that male friendship won't just improve the quality of a man's life--they might even impact the length of it.