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What the #&%*? New research shows swearing IS effective in helping us tolerate pain

By Published July 17, 2019

A new study has found that using the f-word, when pain strikes, raises pain threshold and tolerance. Amazingly, swearing increases people’s threshold (32%) and tolerance (33%) of pain by about a third.[1]

A panel of experts, including Keele University’s well-known senior lecturer in psychology, Dr Richard Stephens, language expert and author, Dr Emma Byrne, and acclaimed lexicographer Jonathon Green are the team behind the research, which was sponsored by Nurofen. 

During the experiment, a panel of scientists, lexicographers and lay members of the public also created two new “socially acceptable” swear words. The aim was to identify whether the new words could also increase pain tolerance compared with swear words and control words.

The new words did not alleviate pain in the same way traditional swearing did – showing traditional swear words are a better option for increasing pain tolerance.[1]

The new study was built on Dr Richard Stephen’s original 2009 study which discovered that swearing can increase pain tolerance in the short term.[2]

Two new “socially acceptable” swearwords were created - Twizpipe and Fouch - as they mimic real swear words quite closely. Twizpipe mirrors the humorous element of swearing and is fun to say, whereas fouch is harsh-sounding and concise, similar to the existing swear words.

1 Data on file 2019.

2 Stephens, R., Atkins, J., Kingston, A. Swearing as a response to pain. Neuroreport. 2009;20:1056–1060

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