Can swearing help relieve pain?

Don’t listen to grandmothers bleating about manners: Not only is swearing fun, it has many health benefits. That’s according to leading “swearologist” Dr. Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University, England, who has shown swearing accelerates pain relief and explained his research into this f—ing interesting phenomenon.

What have you discovered?

We showed that swearing is a form of emotional language, a more demonstrative mode of expression. Our latest test showed how aggression can also help pain relief; we had subjects play violent video games or golf simulators, and then saw how long they could keep their hands in ice. The aggressive game players lasted longer.

Nice. What can swearing do for me, doc?

Mainly pain relief, but potentially stress relief, too. One researcher found that swearing altered moods and reduced irritation. We’re also looking at whether being emotional makes you better at swearing, which we test in a fluency task of how many words they can say in a minute.

So, you can tell who is the best at swearing?

We know some are more fluent than others. We also looked at gender, age, social class, etc. Women swear less and working class people swear more.

How can we get the most benefit?

There’s no manual, but the more you swear the less you benefit. I don’t know if there could be a recommended daily allowance!

Does society need to accept our right to swear in more places – i.e. church, school, etc?

I think attitudes are changing. I wouldn’t have been able to research this until recently. No one likes swearing around children, but it’s sensible to suggest that we use it when we need it. These days it’s not covered by most obscenity laws, you can have it in newspapers, so the situation has moved on.


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