Scientists have discovered that swearing is actually good for your health
Depending on what sort of situation you're in, swearing can have either positive or negative connotations. Dropping a well-timed f-bomb while telling a joke to a bunch of close friends, for example, can add to the humor of the experience and score you a few extra laughs. Doing the same thing in front of a group of toddlers, however, will probably get you a stern talking to from their parents and a reputation for being a terrible person.
It's not unfair to say, then, that there's a huge stigma around swearing, and doing it at the wrong time could land you in seriously hot water.
And yet, according to various scientific studies, the frowned-upon habit actually has some proven health benefits.
You might have noticed that when you stub your toe on a doorframe or nick your finger on something sharp, your instinct is to swear. It just comes out without you really noticing - sometimes to the shock and/or embarrassment of anyone who happens to be around you at the time. Well, there's a reason for that.
According toDr. Richard Stephens from the University of Keele in the UK, cursing can help to alleviate pain. "We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain," he said. "A possible reason for this is that it stimulates the body's sympathetic nervous system - that's the system that makes your heart pound when you are in danger."
But it's not just during the heat of the moment that swearing has a positive effect.
Emma Byrne, author of Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language, explained that using bad language can help people cope with long-term pain, too. “We know that people with terminal or chronic illness use swearing as a way of dealing with fear and frustration,” she said. “It's a lot less debilitating than curling up in a little ball and crying.”
More than that, though, swearing can actually make a person stronger.
Dr. Stephens conducted an experiment to test whether or not foul language would improve a person's ability to either ride a stationary bike at a high difficulty setting or squeeze a device which measures grip strength. In both tests, people's abilities were measured at a standard rate then compared to how well they performed when saying either swear words or "neutral words".
Between both activities, the subjects' abilities improved significantly when swearing.
But it's not just physical performance that swearing helps with: mental agility has also been observed to increase when bad language is used.
“If you suffer a stroke on the left side of your brain, there's a good chance it will damage your language facilities,” said Byrne. However, because swear words trigger the emotion part of your brain as well as the language center, “there are lots of brain-injured patients who can express themselves pretty fluently, but purely through swearing."
In a way, then, swear words help us to engage our brains in more dynamic ways, and allow those with certain restrictions to still communicate verbally.
It's also been proven that smarter people tend to swear more. This doesn't mean that you can improve your IQ by busting out a few expletives on a regular basis, but rather that the ability to effectively use swear words is an indicator of intelligence. Still, this shows that swearing is far from a bad thing - it's actually somewhat of a brain-training tool.
So, next time you hear someone cussing, don't judge them. Join them.