Humor and Health

humor, humour, laughter, health

There is a humor–health hypothesis. This hypothesis claims that there is a link between humor and health. It is perceived that there is a positive link between humor and health. Humor should improve your health. There are many suggestions as how humor can improve health or not.

  • Humor, in terms of laughter, creates accompanying physiological changes in the body which are positive and conducive to health
  • Humor and/or laughter may create a positive emotional state which improves health.
  • Humor and/or laughter may assist in moderating adverse effects of stress, it may enhance the coping and negating the known negative physical effects of stress.
  • Humor is also known to benefit relations, it improves interpersonal skills or social support.
  • Humor is used to facilitate communication and avoid conflict
  • In a recent research in a hospital setting humor was present in 85% of interactions and was patient-initiated 70% of the time
  • Humor is inappropriate and unethical when used with patients who are in some way psychologically or cognitively impaired
  • Humor about sex or gender, ethnicity, politics, humor or joking about tragedy or disease-related symptoms are considered humor exclusion zones
  • Humor is also considered inappropriate when the nurse or doctor is unfamiliar with or indeed, unknown to the patient
  • Almost every time empathy is considered as an important prerequisite for humor

These relationships come from a recent review of 88 published articles on humor and health. It is concluded from this review that the humor health link may exists but but current research is limited in design and results are therefore ambiguous.

Humor may affect patients’ perceptions of health and symptoms, their ability to cope, propensity to report symptoms or seek health care and their subsequent interaction with health care professionals.

The direction of the influence of humor on health is not always clear. For instance besides positive effects of humor on health the question remains whether patients with humor are less likely to ask for help and therefore more likely to be diagnosed and treated later.

What do you think, do you know of more effects of humor on health?
May McCreaddie, Sally Wiggins (2008). The purpose and function of humour in health, health care and nursing: a narrative review Journal of Advanced Nursing, 61 (6), 584-595 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04548.x