Humor Improves Health
By Jeff Carpenter ABCNEWS.com
Sitcoms as medicine? Turns out
laughter has been found to improve not only people's mood, but
also their health.
It turns out television might be good for you after all - at
least if it's funny.
New research from the University of California's Center for Complementary
and Alternative Medicine in Irvine concludes that merely anticipating
a funny event improved people's mood.
Previous work from these researchers found that laughter can
increase the body's ability to fight off infection by increasing
levels of key immune system components, and also by decreasing
levels of stress hormones associated with poor immune function.
This new finding, however, is the first to suggest that anticipating
a humorous event may do the same. The results were presented at
the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.
"We've demonstrated that watching a funny video can stimulate
the body's ability to manage stress and fight disease," said Lee
Berk, lead researcher for the study and professor of medicine
at the UC Irvine College of Medicine. "But this is the first time
we've seen that just anticipating such an event can change the
Funny Videos Improve Health
For the current study, the moods of 10 men were evaluated two
days before, 15 minutes before, and immediately following a viewing
of a funny video of their choice. At each point their moods were
evaluated using a standard test known as the profile of mood states,
which assess levels of tension, anger, depression, fatigue, and
According to Berk, these negative mood categories have all been
shown to increase stress hormone levels and reduce the effectiveness
of the immune system.
The results showed that two days before viewing the video, levels
of depression among the men dropped 51 percent, confusion went
down 36 percent, anger fell 19 percent, fatigue 15 percent, and
tension 9 percent.
Immediately after the men viewed the video, these mood levels
dropped even more. Depression and anger both dropped 98 percent,
fatigue fell by 87 percent, confusion was down 75 percent, and
tension decreased by 61 percent.
These mood changes suggest to the researchers that anticipating
a humorous event could boost the immune system much the way laughter
Berk is working to show that the improvements in mood observed
during the anticipation of watching a funny video translates into
actual molecular changes in the immune system. "I do have the
[raw] data that shows that the stress hormones that suppress the
immune system are modulated in a beneficial direction relative
to anticipation," said Berk.
In other words, early experiments have shown that the sheer
anticipation of a funny event helps the body fight off illness.
Berk also points out that a number of hospitals have "humor
carts," as well as programs that bring clowns in for children
to raise spirits and possibly boost the immune system. Berk is
even working on a program to provide humor prescriptions to patients
by having them fill out questionnaires that identify their humor
Another humor approach to combat illness is the "laughter club,"
which is used by the Memphis Tennessee Cancer Foundation. Its
motto is "laugh anyway."
"A laughter club is like an aerobics class," said Steve Wilson,
the psychologist who developed "laughter clubs" and president
of World Laughter Tour Inc. "A group of people get together at
a designated place and time with an instructor that we call a
laughter leader, and they go through a routine of giggling and
guffawing. We say that laughter clubs prevent hardening of the
Reference Source 104