HZ: So why is swearing good for you?
EMMA BYRNE: It's good for us socially, in that it is this really useful telegraph of our emotions; it's a good way of avoiding physical conflict. It's also a really good way of bonding, of saying "I hear you. I feel the strength of your emotions," like saying "Fuck that shit" when someone comes to you with something that's obviously upset them. Sometimes it needs to be something stronger than just putting your arm around their shoulder going, "Oh there, there". It's also really useful individually, both for a cathartic side of things when you do something painful or frustrating, letting it out there.
HZ: Another reason swearing is good for you: it relieves pain.
EMMA BYRNE: That is really potent and surprisingly well documented. When you stick your hands, for example, in freezing cold water, you can stand it for about half as long again if you’re using a single swear word than if you're using a single neutral word. Not only that: when afterwards you're asked about how painful that experience felt, you report that cold water as feeling much milder than the water that you had your hand in while you were using some neutral word. So we know that it's really handy for dealing with pain that's being inflicted on you. We also know that it's quite useful, for example, among people who are suffering from long term conditions - so not pain that's been inflicted in a lab, the pain that is ongoing. So managing particularly the emotional aspects of long term pain, a good swear can be cathartic.Read more