You would think that flying off the handle and belting out coarse language would be bad for for your health, but according to new research, it’s the other way around.
In his recently published study, Dr. Michael Phillip, a psychologist and lecturer at New Zealand’s Massey University, argues that swearing out loud can provide relief from “short-term social distress.” This is defined, he says, by things such as lovers quarrels or minor social situations that result in stress.
Dr. Phillips tested his theory on 70 participants that were split into two different groups, then tested for feelings of social pain and sensitivity to physical pain. After they had written either about an inclusive or a distressing social event to induce corresponding emotions, they were randomly assigned to either swear aloud or say a non-swear word aloud.
“The results suggest that socially distressed participants who swore out loud experienced less social pain than those who did not,” he said, adding that the practice also helped to soften physical pain felt by the subjects. “Previous research suggests that social stressors, like rejection and ostracism, not only feel painful but also increase peoples’ sensitivity to physical pain…social distress feels painful because both social and physical pain is biologically coupled.”
In layman’s terms, swearing alleviated both physical and social pain by diluting the intensity of that pain and distracting the person from it. But Dr. Phillips warns that swearing won’t offer much help to people under more serious emotional distress.
So the next time you turn into the incredible Hulk and let loose with the “F” bombs, you can take comfort in the knowledge that you’re actually doing yourself some good.