If you have a brother, then you already know how awesome they can be: Brothers are there when you need a shoulder to cry on, help stand up to a bully or be a pal for mischief. And if you get caught, they may even take the heat from your parents for you.
That’s not all, of course. Research shows there are many proven benefits for the girls who are fortunate enough to have brothers in their lives. (And vice-versa.)
“Gender segregation in middle childhood means that children with a sibling of the other sex have unique opportunities to learn about how to interact with the other sex, including with their siblings, as well as with their siblings’ peers,” says Susan M. McHale, director of the Social Science Research Institute at Duke.
Here are all the reasons why it’s awesome to have a brother, according to science:
A brother can make you nicer
A 2014 Brigham Young University study showed that growing up with a brother can make you a more sympathetic person. What’s more: Researchers also found that having a close sibling relationship can also promote altruism in teenagers particularly among boys—which may have a ripple effect through the rest of the family.
“In our study, most relationships were not as important for boys as they were for girls,” study co-author Laura Padilla-Walker, a professor in BYU’s School of Family Life, says in a university release. “But the sibling relationship was different—they seemed to report relying on sibling affection just as much as girls do. It’s an area where parents and therapists could really help boys.”
...and fine-tune your communication skills
Research has found that sisters who grew up with brothers are better at communicating with men than those who only have sisters or were the only child. As McHale tells Motherly, this may be because brothers are “a source of information and advice as adolescents begin to develop heterosexual relationships.”
A brother can lower your stress levels
When your brother is also your best friend, then you’re likely to feel less stressed. A 2011 Developmental Psychology study found that being around your best friend during trying times decreases your levels of cortisol, the hormone in your body that controls stress. In other words: Your brother can help calm you down when everything around you feels chaotic.
...and improve your health
If your brother is into healthy eating and staying fit, there’s a higher chance you will be, too. Research backs this up: Nearly half of people who responded to the 2011 Edelman Health Barometer survey said family and friends had the most influence on their health overall lifestyle. And more than one-third reported that their loved ones had the biggest impact on their nutrition.
So, how can you show appreciation for you brother? “Warmth, compliments and expressions of pride,” McHale suggests.
Or, of course, a good ol’ noogie.