It’s something we’ve all been guilty of at some point – standing with your office bestie around the watercooler, discussing one hot topic after the other while occasionally peeping over your shoulder to ensure the colleague in discussion doesn’t creep up behind you.

If ever you’ve wondered just how much of your day goes into whispering behind your hand, a new study has revealed it. The average person spends 52 minutes of their day gossiping.

The study conducted by the University of California, Riverside, monitored 269 women and 198 men aged between 18-58, reports Times of India.

Participants were told to wear a portable listening device called an Electronically Activated Recorder or EAR. The device randomly sampled snippets of their conversations throughout the day, recording 10% of what was said. The researchers heard 4003 instances of gossip over the two to five-day period, according to Daily Mail.

But surely what one person considers gossip the next person doesn’t, right? So how did the team define the term?

To them, gossip constituted any conversation about a person who wasn’t present – whether it was negative, positive or neutral chatter.

“With that definition it would be hard to think of a person who never gossips,” Megan Robbins, an assistant psychology professor who led the study, says.

“Because that would mean the only time they mention someone is in their presence. They could never talk about a celebrity unless the celebrity was present for the conversation.”

The study was published in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science and found that women gossip more than men. But the results showed that women spent more time saying things researchers categorized as neutral. This means the women shared information, rather than make negative statements or judgements.

It also found that younger people tend to chinwag more than older adults.

If science is anything to go by, discussing someone in their absence could be healthy for the gossiper.

In its July/August issue last year, The Atlantic referred to two studies that proved gossiping could be beneficial.

Researchers at the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma found if two people share negative feelings about the same person, they’re more likely to bond than if they had positive feelings about the individual.

In a separate study, a team of Dutch researchers discovered gossiping improved self-confidence amongst research subjects.

Participants became more reflective, finding ways to improve themselves when hearing negative stories about someone else. Negative gossip also made people prouder of themselves.

That said, you might want to grab your group of gals, order a round of cocktails and send the rumour mill into overdrive with your chitter-chatter.

SOURCES: The Atlantic, Daily Mail, Times of India