Changes in language patterns reveal body’s hidden response to stress

Subtleties in the language people use may reveal physiological stress.

Psychologists found that tracking certain words used by volunteers in randomly collected audio clips reflected stress-related changes in their gene expression. The speech patterns predicted those physiological changes more accurately than speakers’ own ratings of their stress levels.

The research, which is published on 6 November in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 suggests that changes in language may track the biological effects of stress better than how we consciously feel. It’s a new approach to studying stress, says David Creswell, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and one that “holds tremendous promise” for understanding how psychological adversity affects physical health.

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