Oxytocin and happiness

So, early last week, Kim had huge amounts of oxytocin coursing through her body (it’s the hormone that, among other things, causes contractions in labor).   Apparently, she should’ve been really happy:

A male scientist says he’s discovered what makes women happy.

It’s a hormone called oxytocin, says Paul Zak, a researcher at Claremont Graduate University. Zak presented evidence to back his case today at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

Produced naturally in the body, oxytocin can trigger labor contractions and lactation in women. It’s also been shown to boostfeelings of trust and empathy in both men and women.

Interestingly, despite all the ocxytocin, she seemed neither particularly trustful, empathetic, of happy last Monday.  Might have something to do with the pain that comes with pushing a nearly 7 pound human out of your body.  Hurts just a wee bit (even with an epidural).  Anyway, onto the cool experiment:

Zak, trained as an economist, was part of a team that studied oxytocin levels in college-age women before and after they received a $24 gift from a stranger.

Acts like this, which show kindness and trust, are known to cause oxytocin levels to rise. But the amount of increase varies widely from person to person.

In this study, women filled out surveys about their satisfaction with life before they received the gift. And comparing the survey results with oxytocin changes revealed a clear pattern.

“Women who release more oxytocin are happier,” Zak told the audience at the neuroscience meeting. “They like being around other people more, they have more sex per month, and they have more resilience to adverse events.”

The reason for these differences probably has to do with oxytocin’s ability to encourage people to form relationships, trust other people, and empathize, he says.

Given that both males and females have oxytocin, I wonder why they didn’t do the experiment with both.  I’m generally quite a happy person, so I presume my oxytocin is fairly high.  Hopefully, that won’t send me into labor.

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