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Watching sad films is good for you and is a natural painkiller

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Tom Fordy
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Who doesn’t love a weepy movie?

You know the kind of thing – those poor cowboys from Brokeback Mountain not being allowed to ride together, the opening bit from Up that chokes you up before the film’s even started, and Leonardo DiCaprio freezing his arse off after copping an iceberg.

Well, according to science, those sad movies might actually be good for you.

An Oxford University team – comprising of both arts and science boffins – has conducted groundbreaking experiments that suggest emotional and dramatic films trigger endorphins, a natural feel-good painkiller.

As reported by the BBC, Oxford evolutionary psychology professor Robin Dunbar said, "Fiction is widely studied by humanities academics as it is an important feature of human society, common to all cultures.

"Yet the reasons why fiction can be so engrossing and the functions for this have not been widely studied by psychologists or behavioural biologists.

"There are good social reasons – folklore enables us to pass on wisdom or ingrain community values, bringing us together. While that is important, it does not fully explain why we are willing to return again and again to be entertained."

The experiments showed films to two groups of volunteers – one group watching a story about the troubled life of a homeless man, while the other watched a film about a neutral subject.

Their pain threshold was tested by using the “wall-sit” method, where subjects have to rest their back against in the sitting position and see how long they can hold it.

"Those who had the greatest emotional response also had the greatest increase in pain threshold and the greater their sense of being bonded with their group," said Professor Dunbar.

While the team suspects that other psychological aspects also play a role, the release of endorphins explains a lot about how our love of emotional fiction has evolved as a social phenomenon.

So, don't worry about looking all un-manly - having a good old cry over a film could be doing you the world of good.

Now where’s that Titanic DVD?

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Tom Fordy

Tom Fordy is a London-based writer. He is former men's magazine editor and is now works as a lifestyle and entertainment journalist and opinionated beard for hire. His interests include the great literary works of the 20th century, New Wave European cinema and the career of Hulk Hogan. Follow Tom on Twitter: @TheTomFordy

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