Could swearing be good for your health?

Whether you’re a saint or a swearer, you’re probably guilty of letting a tabooed word slip at some point in your life – and it may not be your fault.

Studies conducted on English university students have shown that swearing your way through painful or difficult circumstances can increase tolerance and prolong endurance. In the study, students placed their hands into a bucket of water cooled to 5°c, then timed how long they were able to withstand the environment. Students were then asked to choose one swearword, and repeat the term throughout a second trial. On average, participants were able to keep their hand submerged 40 seconds longer whilst swearing.

Swear words have existed in every dialect in human history – whether a small tribe, or millions of people speak it across the world. Swear words make up 0.6 per cent of our average 16,000 words a day, and are used in a sundry of ways.

Cultural taboos and offensive words come and go just as much as colloquialisms. Often related to cultural issues, religion, or the female anatomy, the power of swear words can lose power over time – the exclamation of ‘golly’ (a contraction of ‘God’s body’) was once considered an offensive phrase, but is now considered relatively mild. It can be therefore expected that todays swear words, in 50 years time, will have been surpassed by even filthier alternatives – words that today, we may not even bat an eyelid at.

Whether you’re an accomplished swearer or are defiantly opposed to it, the act itself does have pain-killing effects. Breaking taboos and letting loose appear to be ingrained into our every fibre, and if history tells us anything, it’s that we won’t be changing anytime soon.

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Do you find swearing to be a cathartic practice? Have you ever been surprised by a swear word?