Stress has long been linked to life-threatening diseases like obesity, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. It’s fair to say that if possible you should try to reduce your overall levels of stress.
And scientists have now begun to explore how language could be used to monitor and treat people with high-stress levels. According to a new study from the University of Arizona, saying some words more often could signal that you’re feeling stressed out.
The psychologists monitored the use of certain words that volunteers used in their day-to-day life by collecting audio recordings. In total, they gathered more than 22,000 clips from 143 adults between the ages of 25 and 56.
The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was particularly focused on function words like pronouns and adverbs.
These are some of the words to look out for:
“By themselves they don’t have any meaning, but they clarify what’s going on,” Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona and lead author of the study, told the scientific journal Nature.
He added that function words “are produced more automatically and they betray a bit more about what’s going on with the speaker.”
Mehl told Nature these words may act as “emotional intensifiers,” suggesting the speaker is more “aroused,” meaning excited or alert.
By matching the use of these words to the white blood cell behaviour of the study participants, the scientists found they could get much more accurate measurements of stress than simply asking them.
The report says: “This study identified systematic individual differences in natural language use that track CTRA gene expression more closely than do conventional self-report measures of stress, anxiety, or depression.”
So what’s the advantage of research like this?
Mehl says this research could be used to help identify people at a higher risk of developing stress-related diseases like heart disease or a stroke.
Doctors could potentially listen to way patients express themselves to help form a diagnosis.