Do you sigh a lot? You’re LESS likely to be lonely and depressed than people who don’t, researchers say
- Scientists quizzed some 350 people about the number of times they sighed
- The report in the Journal of Research in Personality had surprising results
- People who sigh have more emotional experience than previously understood
It is often seen as a sign of sadness, boredom or regret – but men who sigh a lot are less likely to be depressed or lonely, claim researchers.
Experiments at six universities in the US and Europe examined the perception of people who sigh and recorded how often they sighed in a given period.
The psychologists, who referred to Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking work The Expression Of The Emotions In Man And Animals, which links sighing to sadness, acknowledged that their findings appeared to be counter-intuitive.
The psychologists, who referred to Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking work The Expression Of The Emotions In Man And Animals, which links sighing to sadness, acknowledged that their findings appeared to be counter-intuitive
By contrast, participants said that the less frequently someone sighed, the more likely they were to perceive them as outgoing, friendly and conscientious
‘Intuitively, we assume that people who sigh frequently tend to be sad, stressed, overwhelmed, or frustrated,’ they said.
Their conclusions, published in the Journal Of Research In Personality, suggest sighing may have a more complex relationship with emotional experience than previously understood.
In the first experiment, 350 participants were quizzed about their views of people who sigh frequently. Their answers overwhelmingly linked regular sighers with an increased likelihood of being stressed, anxious, depressed, lonely and tired.
By contrast, participants said that the less frequently someone sighed, the more likely they were to perceive them as outgoing, friendly and conscientious.
But a second experiment recorded how 510 participants sighed in real life. It involved four different groups – including cancer patients, divorcees, the elderly and meditators – who were asked to rate their anxiety, loneliness, stress, tiredness and satisfaction with life.
They were fitted with a recording device for three days that registered any sigh they made, defined as an ‘exaggerated exhalation of breath’.
The results found no link between people who sigh frequently and those who were more likely to suffer negative emotions.
Most surprisingly, the findings showed that men who sighed more often reported being less lonely and were less likely to be depressed. Researchers suggested men who are able to express ‘non-verbal’ emotions were better at connecting with others.
The researchers concluded: ‘Counter to common lay beliefs, frequent sighing is not a reliable indicator of negative affect, including levels of depressive symptoms, trait anxiety, loneliness, or experienced stress.
‘Our results therefore indicate that people who sigh frequently do not experience more symptoms of psychological disorders or discomfort than those who do not.’
Previous studies have suggested that sighing is a natural way for the body to regulate breathing when stressed.
Rather than a response to sadness or despair, scientists argue it is a life-sustaining reflex to help preserve lung function.
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