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A Curse or Two Might Quell the Pain
Date:7/13/2009

Study finds that swearing may increase tolerance to sudden hurts,,,,

MONDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- Ever blurt out a swear word after stubbing a toe or experiencing some other painful incident?

Your outburst might actually help lessen the pain, new research shows.

In a study that suggests bad words aren't all bad, college students who repeated swear words while submerging their hand in ice-cold water were able to withstand the frigid temperatures longer than those who kept quiet.

Researchers from Keele University in England asked 67 undergraduates for five words they might shout after hitting themselves on the thumb with a hammer. The students were then asked to hold their hand in 32 degree Fahrenheit water for as long as possible.

When repeating their favorite curse word, students were able to keep their hand in the water for an average of 155 seconds, compared with 115 seconds when they did the same experiment but didn't swear.

Students also reported perceiving less pain in the cold water while swearing, feeling less anxiety and less fear of the pain, according to the study. Its findings are reported in the Aug. 5 issue of NeuroReport.

The researchers suspect the effect was not just because repeating the swear word distracted the students from the pain. Those who swore had increased heart rates, indicating that profanities might jumpstart the fight-or-flight response, the study authors noted.

And women's heart rates increased even more than men's.

"Swearing may raise levels of aggression, downplaying feebleness in favor of a more pain-tolerant machismo, most likely mediated by classic fight-or-flight mechanisms," said the study's lead author, Richard Stephens, a lecturer in psychology at Keele University.

"Swearing has been around for centuries," with citations in literature dating to at least the 1500s, Stephens said. Research has shown th
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