A good cry, we've all been told, can help release emotions and give the crier a better perspective on her problems. But the conventional wisdom just doesn't hold water, at least according to a recent study from the Netherlands. Though some research suggests that a woman's tears may have an effect on men by lowering their testosterone levels, the act of sobbing doesn't seem to have much effect on women themselves when they shed tears. Here, a brief guide to the latest research:
How was this study conducted?
Dutch researchers gathered 97 women aged 18 to 48 and asked them to keep daily journals for several weeks, detailing their mood, urge to cry, and any actual sob sessions they had. If they cried, the women included information on how long their crying lasted, who was around, the intensity of their crying, and how they felt afterwards.
What did their analysis reveal?
After reviewing more than 1,000 crying sessions, researchers learned that the average sob session lasted about eight minutes, occurred when the crier was alone or with just one other person, and was triggered by conflict, loss, or seeing others suffer. What researchers didn't find, however, was evidence that crying helped: More than 60 percent of the women reported feeling no better after crying, and 9 percent actually felt worse. "Crying is not nearly as beneficial as people think it is," says Dr. Jonathan Rottenberg, as quoted by MSNBC.
Then why do people cry?
It's possible, according to experts, that the benefits of crying aren't reaped by criers themselves, but come from the effect their tears have on others. Crying may help to bolster social networks, draw attention to important problems, and could be an effective means of soliciting help from other people, while doing little to nothing for the crier himself.
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