Medical science has finally given you a good excuse to swear.
When you stub a toe or hit your finger with a hammer, uttering a few four-letter words can actually soften the blow, according to a new study.
"If people swear when they are in pain, they seem to tolerate the pain better," said the lead researcher Richard Stephens of Keele University in Staffordshire, England.
He noted that some medical experts used to think that swearing might make pain worse by "embellishing or overstating" its severity. The new research, however, appears to prove the opposite.
For their study, which was published in the journal NeuroReport, the researchers enlisted the aid of 67 university students. Each one was asked to submerge a hand in a tub of ice-cold water for as long as possible, while repeating a swear word of their choice. They then did the experiment once more - only this time they said an emotionally-neutral word that describes a table, such as brown or square.
While spewing foul language, the volunteers were able to keep a hand in the chilled water for an average of 160 seconds. That compares with an average of 100 seconds when they didn't swear.
"So, there is quite a big difference," said Dr. Stephens. He added that heart rate also shot up when the volunteers swore.
The researchers speculate that swearing increases pain tolerance by triggering our "flight-or-fight" response, producing an adrenalin rush and other physiological changes that help the body to cope with a stressful situation. It's like a state of self-induced aggression, he explained.
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