Person on stress (Photo Credit: Instagram)
Experiencing stress may make people both more likely to give, and receive emotional support from another person, according to a study which may lead to better interventions to help people feel more relaxed.
The study, published in the journal Stress & Health, suggested that while stress can lead to negative health outcomes, there are potential social benefits, as well.
"Our findings suggest that just because we have a bad day, that doesn't mean it has to be completely unhealthy. If stress can actually connect us with other people, which I think is absolutely vital to the human experience, I think that's a benefit," said study co-author David Almeida from The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in the US.
"Stress could potentially help people deal with negative situations by driving them to be with other people," Almedia said.
According to the researchers, while the negative effects of stress -- such as heart disease, compromised immune function and depressive symptoms -- are well-documented, its potential benefits, such as emotional support remained unknown.
"Looking at the current research, I realized that a lot of studies looked at how emotional support is beneficial to other health outcomes, but not many looked at the determinants of social support," said Hye Won Chai, another co-author of the study from Penn State.
"We thought that stress could be a facilitator in these interpersonal exchanges," Chai said.
For the study, the scientists interviewed 1,622 participants for eight consecutive nights.
They asked the participants about their stressors, and whether they gave or received emotional support on that day.
These stressors included arguments, stressful events at work or school, and stressful events at home, the study noted.
According to the researchers, the participants were on average more than twice as likely to either give or receive emotional support on days they experienced a stressor.
They were also 26 per cent more likely to give or receive support the following day, the study said.
While this effect, on average, was found across the participants, it seemed to differ slightly between men and women.
"Women tended to engage in more giving and receiving emotional support than men. This supports previous findings that women tend to seek more emotional support from other people when they're stressed," Chai said.
In the study, the researchers said, men were also more likely to engage in emotional support on days they were stressed, but to a lesser extent than women.
"We saw that someone experiencing a stressor today actually predicted them giving emotional support the next day," Almeida said.
"This made me think that it's actually possible that stress helps to drive you to other people and allows it to be ok to talk about problems -- your problems, my problems," he added.
Almeida added that the results could help practitioners enhance and design better interventions for targeting stress.