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The Surprising Health Benefits of Swearing

No one needs to tell you that having a potty mouth is crass and vulgar. In fact, ever since we were little children we were told not to curse or swear excessively. While this advice seems well intentioned with respect to social decorum, science says otherwise. In fact, science reveals that a little cursing here and there can actually be a balm for our soul. How so? Let us examine how this seemingly bad habit can turn into something surprisingly comforting when the moment calls for it.

  • Pain relief. Swearing activates the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response, leading to a surge of adrenaline and a subsequent pain relieving effect on our immune system. Richard Stephens of Keele University in England discovered that people who swear are able to hold their hands in ice water for twice as long. However, this only holds true for people who swear a few times a day, and not for those who swear excessively. The main reason for this is because those who swear on a constant basis are desensitized to their swearing, and as a result, are not particularly aroused by the act of swearing when they engage in it.
  • Non-violent Outlet. Swearing enables us to get back at bad people or situations without having to resort to traditional violence, or something more menacing or harmful. It can be considered an act of sublimation, whereby we channel our anger by swearing instead, in what is seen as a ‘healthier’ outlet to help release our negative emotions.
  • Harmless & Humorous Coping Mechanism. This coping mechanism, although far from a great one, can serve to increase our sense of self esteem, when it seems deflated, threatened or attacked. This in turn helps to build our inner resilience, and confidence in the midst of perceived tension and stress.
  • Assertion of Power/Control. Swearing can give us a greater sense of power and control over a bad or negative situation. By swearing we show that we have the power to control a situation, and not have the situation control us. This usually happens, ironically, when things are spinning out of control for us, and when things are not necessarily going our way. A person need not be the actual trigger for swearing to occur, but a particular unpleasant situation can be the trigger.
  • Social Bonding. Swearing can serve to show that we are not a fragmented member of a society. That’s why, cursing/swearing among friends can make you feel slightly better, when its coupled with a sense of validation from others. If done correctly, and under the right circumstances and with the right people, or group, it can also indicate that we are open, trustworthy, and fun to be around, making us appear more genuinely likable, and ‘real’ to others.
  • Psychological & Physical Health. The best health benefits of swearing include increased circulation, elevated endorphin, and serotonin levels, and an overall sense of calm, control, and well-being. All of these benefits can seem intriguing if it is done in the right way, and does not become a vulgar habit.
  • Outlet for Self-Expression & Creativity. Swearing can at times spark our inner creativity. Some individuals who naturally possess more of a creative flair find that they can come up with very creative words in the process of swearing, or that they muster up the energy to complete a project that has been neglected for some time.

A little swearing now and then (to yourself, or with friends) is not too terrible, and in fact may be even be good for your health by making you feel better, at least in the moment. The trick is to make sure it isn’t excessive, and that your swearing is not coupled up with anger, or another extreme negative emotion, as that can be very detrimental to your overall well being, and to others near you, possibly negating all of the potential health benefits described above.

The Surprising Health Benefits of Swearing


Emily Waters

Emily Waters earned her Master's degree in industrial psychology with an emphasis in human relations. She possesses keen insight into the field of applied psychology, organizational development, motivation, and stress, the latter of which is ubiquitous in the workplace environment and in one’s personal life. One of her academic passions is the understanding of human nature and illness as it pertains to the mind and body. Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Presently, she teaches a variety of psychology courses both in public and private universities.


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APA Reference
Waters, E. (2018). The Surprising Health Benefits of Swearing. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-surprising-health-benefits-of-swearing/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.