All humans partake in gossip in some form. Everyone talks about other people. One study found that male participants spent 55% of conversation time and female participants 67% conversation time on socially relevant topics.
People like to think of gossip as the same as malicious rumours, but researchers define gossip as talking about people who aren't present.
Gossip gives people the ability to spread useful information to large social networks. Without engaging in these discussions, we would be unable to maintain societies.
A 2019 meta-analysis found that of the 52 minutes a day the 467 participants spent gossiping, most of it was neutral. 15% was considered negative gossip, and 9% was positive.
Some types of gossip should be avoided, such as harmful gossip that serves no greater purpose.
There's also a physiological distinction between active and passive participation in gossip. A study showed that when subjects heard about another person's anti-social behaviour, their heart rates increased. When they actively gossiped about the person, it helped calm their body.
Gossiping can make us look bad - but it may have evolved to help us bond with each other