The Link Between Laughter and Health: What the Research Says

You should probably be doing more funny stuff.

That’s the advice of Dr. Jayson Dibble, an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Hope College. He recently presented his findings on what science has to say about the connections between humor, laughter and health at a LaughFest event in Holland.

Dibble started with this video of people laughing at other people laughing to prove a point about how humor works.

“Laughter’s contagious,” he said.

It’s something everybody innately knows how to do and occurs in all cultures around the globe. If used correctly, humor can de-escalate conflict, promote a positive mood and helps open our minds to think creatively and problem solve.

So, with all the positives associated with laughter, is there any truth to the old saying that laughter is the best medicine? Dibble says yes, with a catch.

“People have long associated a link between humor and laughter and your health,” he said.

The catch is that studies don’t always paint the clearest or most compelling picture, sometimes due to the flawed methodology used throughout the research. For example, analyzing studies about the effect of laughter on the immune system seems to make a positive connection, but it’s hard to say for sure if laughter in and of itself is the cause of boosted immunity in subjects.

“We don’t have conclusive evidence that it boosts immune function, but there’s also no evidence that it hurts,” Dibble said.

Better evidence exists to support the ideas that laughter helps manage pain, works to lower blood pressure, and lessens stress and anxiety. He also pointed to a study that showed improvements in sleep quality for participants taking part in laughter yoga sessions, although said he wished a sample population would have engaged in regular yoga to see if the results were similar.

While research is ongoing to definitively determine the links between laughter and your health, Dibble advises that you go ahead and seek out your daily dose of humor.

Watch out for side effects including smiles and laughter.

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Photo credit: Alon

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