Crying has lots of benefits for your mental health—and it's good for your body too. Our health expert Susannah Hickling explores the wonderful world of crying
Table of Contents
There are three types of tears
The first type, basal tears, keep the eye lubricated and prevent infection. We cry reflex tears in response to, say, peeling an onion or smoke and, again, they help fight germs. Last and definitely not least are emotional tears, prompted by strong feelings.
Some people can’t cry
Sometimes people might be too depressed and emotionally numb to shed tears, but for others there are physical reasons.
Dry eye syndrome, where the eyes are dry and gritty, can prevent you from crying proper tears. It might be because you spend too much time in a dry environment, or at a computer screen, or sometimes it can be age related or due to a health condition.
Some medications reduce the quantity of tears you produce—for example, SSRIs which treat depression, antihistamines and some blood pressure meds.
Weeping can make you happy
Crying releases the hormone oxytocin, which makes you feel better
A lot of people feel better after a good cry, because shedding tears releases the feelgood chemicals oxytocin and endorphins.
At any rate, bottling up your emotions is considered bad for mental wellbeing—a University of Texas study found it can actually intensify feelings and make you aggressive.
And then there are tears of happiness—when something amazing happens, you have strong feelings for someone or you cry with laughter.
Blubbing is good for your health
Studies show that crying can reduce your blood pressure and breathing rate
People shed more tears in societies with greater gender equality
Dutch researchers studying crying across 37 countries found that people, especially women, were more likely to cry in wealthier, more democratic and individualistic societies.
They theorised it was because people had the freedom to express their emotions rather than because they were more unhappy.
Read more: Why do humans cry?
Read more: Six wonders of the human eye
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