Potty-mouths the world over were celebrating a couple of years ago, when a bunch of boffins demonstrated that swearing relieved pain. Now, the same boffins have turned party-poopers with a new paper.
It appears, on further research, that yelling "s**t!" when your hammer lands on a thumb instead of a nail works best for shy and retiring types who rarely express expletives. If, on the other hand, you’re the kind of person for whom profanity serves as punctuation, swearing won’t serve as a replacement for paracetamol.
The new paper (abstract here), by Richard Stephens and colleagues from the UK’s Keele University, sets out to determine whether “habituation to swearing occurs such that people who swear more frequently in daily life show a lesser pain tolerance effect of swearing, compared with people who swear less frequently”.
And their conclusion?
“The higher the daily swearing frequency, the less was the benefit for pain tolerance … overuse of swearing in everyday situations lessens its effectiveness as a short-term intervention to reduce pain.”