If you use these words a lot, scientists say you could be stressed out

Olivia Petter
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There are some words which, when spoken frequently, might indicate that you are stressed, a new US study has found.

According to a group of speech experts, when someone is stressed they will naturally use more adverbs such as “really”, “so” and “very”.

They will also speak less, the researchers found.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study examined the speech patterns of 143 volunteers, each of whom wore a voice recorder which was turned on every few minutes for two days.

Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona, subsequently transcribed and studied the recordings, listening out for any repeated words and expressions.

He was particularly interested in the volunteers' use of pronouns and adjectives.

“By themselves they don’t have any meaning, but they clarify what’s going on,” Mehl told Nature.

Next, he and a team of genomicists analysed participants’ psychological stress levels by looking at the gene expression in their white blood cells.

In addition to finding that stressed participants were more likely to use adverbs, they also found that they were less likely to use third-person plural pronouns such as “their” and “they”.

This might be due to the fact that people tend to focus on themselves when they feel under pressure, rather than thinking about those around them, the researchers suggested.

They concluded that speech patterns were a better indicator of stress levels than a volunteer’s personal assessment.

While much research has been conducted on the subject of stress, linking it to speech patterns is a relatively new approach, explains David Creswell, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Creswell said that the study “holds tremendous promise” for providing a deeper understanding into how psychological pressures can impact our health, reports Nature.