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Linguistic Blood Test

November 16, 2017

Our word choice may reveal our stress level and even blood chemistry.



A spoken word blood test. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The words we choose could reveal our white blood cell count and other markers of inflammation and stress. This according to University of Arizona psychologist Matthias Mehl. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he reports analyzing over 20,000 audio clips from 143 people, along with blood samples.

MATTHIAS MEHL (University of Arizona):

So we typically listen to what people are saying and that’s the content. So our research suggests that listening to how people are talking, the way they communicate, also carries important information, in this case information about bodily processes.


In particular, adverbs like “very,” and “extremely,” co-occurred with inflammation biomarkers. If it’s true that language choice is a window into blood chemistry, trained doctors or even services like Siri and Alexa could provide an early alert of potential health issues. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon