The Infamous Four Letter Words – Why They May Be Good For Your Health

By Emily Murray

Since the time we are children, our parents have punished us in a variety of ways when any of those offensive four letter words came sliding out of our mouths. Some call them curse words, others say “cussing,” but according to a new health study, having a potty mouth can actually work to your advantage.

While mothers across the country are likely staring at this headline in horror, science doesn’t lie and while no one wants their kid swearing up a storm, having a “dirty word” vocabulary to dig into in your adult years can help you release stress and actually help lessen the feeling of pain when a sudden stubbed toe or other painful incident takes you by surprise.

(Also read: Heartbreak doesn’t just cause emotional pain, but physical pain too!)

The study conducted by Keele University involved an experiment requiring students to put their hand in a bucket of freezing cold water and were allowed to swear freely. They were asked to once again stick their hand in the icy water but this time were instructed to refrain from saying anything offensive, replacing swear words with harmless ones. This seemingly simple test revealed that students were able to keep their hand in the chilly water longer when letting these seemingly offensive words fly at random.

The Science Behind the Study
Researchers found the link between pain tolerance and cursing to be bound by the signaling of the “fight or flight” response. When most of us lose are cool during times of sudden pain or anger, our hearts naturally begin to race and our body has a surge of adrenaline. Whether we stub a toe or have a sudden tift with a loved one, not only our mental well being but are physical state is affected.

(Also read: Study: Committed Relationships and Marriage Reduce Stress)

So what if you never use this type of offensive language? Well the answer may surprise you. In this case, when those who normally refrain from swearing let curse words fly freely in response to pain, a numbing effect was actually 4 times more intense. Even the most well versed, well educated professionals have been known to let one of those nasty words fly out now and again and apparently it’s not such a big deal! Pain tolerance increases as a response according to the study’s findings. It appears that this same effect is not seen in men who have “a tendency to catastrophise,” however, as stated in the study’s abstract. The pain numbing effects of profanity are believed to “induce a fight-or-flight response and nullifies the link between fear of pain and pain perception.”

Whatever the case, there is always a time and a place for everything but when a painful situation arises, we now know why letting the words flow freely from your mouth isn’t so terrible after all. In fact, it’s actually a good thing! (Try telling that to your high school teacher!)

How do you feel about this study? I want to know your thoughts – let’s hear it!