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.