This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
Politics is an emotional business. Still,
many people found themselves unusually moved by the historic presidential
inauguration last week in Washington. Watching the huge crowds, we saw
laughter, cheers, hugs -- but also many tears.
It made us wonder, why do people cry? Surely
tears must be good for us -- a way to calm the mind and cleanse the body. Yet
studies show that crying sometimes makes people feel worse.
Three researchers in Florida and the Netherlands recently
looked more deeply into the subject. They examined detailed descriptions of
crying experiences. Psychologist Jonathan Rottenberg at the University of South
Florida says they wanted to study crying as it happens in everyday life, not in
team analyzed information from the International Study on Adult Crying. As part
of that study, three thousand people in different countries, mostly college
students, wrote about recent crying experiences. They noted causes,
surroundings and any people involved in the event. They also reported how they
felt after they cried.
Rottenberg says the research showed that all crying experiences are not created
equal. Crying does not always make a person feel better, he says. About ten
percent of people reported feeling worse after their cried.
But a third felt better after crying. And a majority reported
the experience as helpful.
The research showed that people
who cry alone may not do as well as those with others around. People who reached
out for emotional support at the time -- and received it -- reported better
results from the crying experience.
Professor Rottenberg says those who felt shame or embarrassment while crying
were less likely to report that crying had been helpful.
Research has shown that women cry more
often and more intensely than men. But it may not be to better effect, says the
psychologist. The new findings, he says, did not show that a person's sex was a
predictor of beneficial crying. In other words, just because women cry more
does not mean they are more likely to have a "good" cry.
paper entitled "Is Crying Beneficial?" appeared in December in
Current Directions in Psychological Science. And there is more to learn.
Jonathan Rottenberg says the science of crying is still in its infancy.
And that's the VOA Special English Health Report,
written by Caty Weaver. For transcripts and MP3s and to contact us, go to
voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.