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.
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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.
It is talking about a person who isn’t present. It's not necessarily about spreading malicious rumors or embarrassing stories, just sharing information.
Research indicates that the typical person spends about 52 minutes per day gossiping. But most of it is just sharing information about the people in their lives with those around them.
If you gossip negative things, like insulting someone or talking down their achievements, it may put both you and the person you are talking to at risk of losing the group’s trust and each other’s strength.
Speaking your mind about someone can also result in "spontaneous trait transference. " According to psychologists, this is when people are perceived as possessing the traits they are describing in others.
Close relationships (with spouses, family, friends, community members) are the biggest factor keeping people happy throughout their lives, researchers discovered. People with strong relationships are happier, and physically and mentally healthier, than those who are less well-connected. (The researchers are still studying the connection between relationships and physical health -- there's evidence that good relationships result in lower levels of stress hormones, and less chronic inflammation.)
Other ingredients for a long and happy life include not smoking or abusing alcohol, exercising regularly and finding work-life balance, the Harvard study found. "Rather than just being your grandmother's good advice, there's real science behind this," Waldinger says. "You can quantify the number of years you'll live longer, if you do these things."