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A friend of mine regularly gets electric shocks. This happens sometimes when he touches water, his laptop, a chair, metals, people. What may be the reason that he gets electric shocks so often? And why would he have it often when other people have it almost never?

EDIT I asked him for some further details. He gets an electric shock 5-10 times per day. He wears shoes with rubber or sneakers. He lives anti-squat in a former retirement home. He also often experiences stress and has high blood pressure. Could one of these be the reason?

UPDATE The electric shocks occur only when he is at home.

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  • $\begingroup$ Some comments deleted. Please use comments to improve the question. To list factors which might be related to static shocks, please post an answer. $\endgroup$
    – rob
    Mar 2, 2022 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ We need a lot more info. What does they wear; what kind of footwear, where does they live, etc. Perhaps most important -- how did you or they determine the relative frequency of static electricity shocks? $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2022 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ What does "anti-squat" mean? $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2022 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ Does he mostly get shocked in one particular place, or this happens regardless of where he is - home, workplace etc.? I was getting shocked in two of my previous workplaces and the reason for both was environmental - artificial grass in first, and floor design in second. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2022 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ It's almost certainly mostly the shoes, possibly exacerbated by the way he walks. I used to get lots of shocks, until I changed my shoes and they stopped. $\endgroup$
    – Buzz
    Mar 3, 2022 at 21:15

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The reason is static electricity, i.e. the charge difference between differently-charged objects. The closer you bring two charged objects together, the force (or electric field) is stronger. Positive and negative charges attract and when they come too close the electric field becomes so strong that the air temporarily becomes an electrical conductor which is also known as dielectric breakdown. When this happens you can see a spark, which causes (enables) the two objects to exchange charge. A spark in air is triggered when the electric field strength exceeds ~3 kV/mm, which is the dielectric field strength of the air. It is the spark that actually hurts!

There are many different reasons why this happens but they all come down to charge buildup. When you rub two materials together, this causes a charge exchange between them. For example, when you walk around while wearing wool clothes, the charge builds up on your body and it becomes charged with respect to some other objects in the room. Dry conditions also contribute to charge buildup because air moisture content is a conductor over which any charge you build on your skin leaks away to the ground. Shoes with rubber or plastic soles is also an example of an insulator and contribute to the charge buildup.


I had similar issues with door handles in my previous workplace. The reason was the artificial grass carpet (plastic) on the floor which served as an insulator. As I walked on the carpet, the charge would buildup on my skin and as soon as I'd touched a door handle I would get shocked. The solution to this problem was to touch the handle with a metallic key first - there was still a spark, but now between the key and the handle. An exchange of charges does not hurt, the spark does!

If you really want to find the root cause for your friend's electric shocks, you need to start narrowing down possible causes. A very high chance is that this is an environmental problem - does your friend mostly get shocked in one particular place such as his home or workplace?

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  • $\begingroup$ This explains the shocks but not at all why said person seems to experience more than everyone else around him. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2022 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft Since the OP accepted the answer without any additional questions or comments, I feel they are satisfied with the provided information. I am sorry you do not share their opinion. If you feel you can provide different angle to this question, please post an answer - the more the merrier! Thanks for the downvote, I get the message. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2022 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ I will ask him for more details. $\endgroup$
    – Riemann
    Mar 3, 2022 at 13:07

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