Laughter is the Best Medicine

Everyone loves to laugh. It is clear that people reflect positively on memories in which they laughed a lot; memories characterized by laughter are widely regarded as ‘fun’. It is easily accepted and widely held that people have more fun at an event where they laugh (a comedy show) than a one where they do not (a lecture) even though these are both events in which the audience sits in a group and someone speaks to them.

This example seems obvious, I know, but the point is – people universally draw enjoyment out of laughing. Laughter is a universal language. This outward manifestation of pleasure, happiness, humor, or excitement is the same in every language.

For example, I read about how writers for BBC traveled to South Africa, and the only thing that the locals could identify with was their laughter. Other emotions, like pride, triumph, which surely are felt by all cultures, were not expressed the same.

As such, laughing is largely about nature rather than nurture – everyone naturally laughs.

Some people laugh more than others, different people laugh at different things, we know this is true. But everyone laughs. One study estimated that people on average laugh seven times in every ten minutes of social interaction. Pinpointing exactly what makes people laugh is the hard part. Every one, at some point or another, has though to themselves what might make their friends laugh. What joke, witty line, one-liner or quip will make someone laugh? The answer is not universal (everyone has a different sense of humor) but the answer is also far less intuitive than you think.


look at how happy these females look

Robert Provine from Psychology Today and three undergraduate students examined just what it is that makes people laugh. They observed 1200 naturally occurring laughs, presumably, from standing in populated areas and overhearing conversations, and noted who the speaker was, who they were speaking to, who laughed, and what was said.

For one, Provine and his students noted almost 50% of the time, it was the speaker laughing more than their audience (humans have a way of amusing themselves) They also noticed that laughter was often preceded by rather commonplace comments rather than jokes or wisecracks. Lastly, no more than one in five laughs came from something actually comical.

There are three traditional theories that scientists have identified as things that people find humorous. The incongruity theory proposes that people find it funny when the conventional is replaced by the unexpected, which are popularly known as anti-jokes. The superiority theory refers to jokes that make fun of people, while the relief theory refers to when someone makes a comment that offers comedic relief at an intense or suspenseful time.

Lastly, and most important, laughing is healthy. reports that laughing helps you relax and relieve stress, but even more so, can help you prevent heart diseases. Further, laughing has even more health benefits such as working your abs, releasing endorphins, and boosting T-cells. T cells are cells in your immune system that help you fight illness. They are in our body, simply waiting for activation, and when we let our a good hearty laugh, they are released.

Not only does smiling help us feel good psychologically, it can actually help us stay healthy! Now you know 🙂

9 thoughts on “Laughter is the Best Medicine

  1. zvk5072

    Nice job on this blog. I think most people agree that laughter is good for you but it will be interesting to see if there are any life expectancy studies that show laughing can make you live longer. Here’s a link I found on how taking yourself less seriously can help overall mood: It’ll be interesting to see if the opinion on laughing changes over time.

  2. Erin Nicole Kemp

    It is interesting that the speaker laughed the most because I always though it was kind of taboo to laugh at your own jokes. I love laughing, in fact last night I laughed so hard my eyes started watering! It’s easy to believe laughter releases endorphins because I always feel great after a big laugh.

  3. sbm5465

    This post really spoke to me. A couple weeks back when I first arrived here, I was really struggling to make friends and having a hard time combatting home sickness. I ended up eventually meeting and befriending this one girl on my floor that has to be one of the funniest people I have ever known. Ever since meeting her, and being around her sense of humor, I have genuinely felt a lot better. Something about laughing and cracking jokes and trying to keep up with her witty banter made me forget about being sad and missing my family. I think one of the reasons why it works is because she has a very similar sense of humor to me. Which made me wonder, what contributes to people having different senses of humor? Are some people just naturally not funny or does it have to do with who they surround themselves with? This article seems to think that has a lot to do with interactions between family and friends. If you are around them enough, you will pick up a similar sense of humor.

  4. Elizabeth Anne Galante

    Since a young girl I have always been known as the girl who is always laughing and smiling, no matter what; laughter always makes me feel better and uplifts any mood that I am in. Along with what others said in their comments, I agree that laughter is definitely the best medicine. Using the statistics that you used in your blog made it far more convincing that laughter is the one of the best things because I think it’s safe to say, we all know someone who never cracks a smile or laughs! In my opinion, without laughter, our world would be boring and uneventful. I also definitely believe that laughter is contagious. Below is a video of a skype laughter chain that never fails to make me laugh and put a smile on my face!

  5. rlw5445

    Just reading the title of your blog made me smile so I knew I had to read on. We have all heard that cliche that laughter is the best medicine, but what fascinated me about your blog post was to see the actual scientific evidence behind it. Laughter is universal and something that anyone, no matter where they are from ,can understand. There are very few things in this world that have that ability to be interpreted and understood across all cultures. Now everyone knows that we all have different kinds of laughs. There are the genuine, tears rolling down the face,rolling on the floor laughs, the subtle chuckles or the fake awkward laugh to move the topic along. It turns out that even if the laugh begin as fake, the stimulation will cause one to begin to genuinely laugh. I’m sure many girls can relate when I talk about trying to get that perfect candid shot of you and your best friends laughing so someone starts off with a fake “Ha Ha”. However, by the end of it you find yourself laughing as if someone just told you a hilarious joke. More details on impact even a fake laugh can have can be found here, along with descriptions of other health benefits which you have already touched on briefly.

  6. Annalise Marie Pilitowski

    Reading the title of your post definitely convinced me that i needed to read your post. I really enjoyed reading it because I love to laugh! I can relate to Justine in the comment above because my friends always ask me why I’m always laughing and smiling. Laughing really is the best medicine because something funny may not have even happened but if you start laughing for no reason, thats funny enough to keep on laughing. Laughing his super contagious and unique to every person. Everyone has a different way of laughing. Here is a of Jimmy Car, the comedian, laughing and it just makes me laugh!

  7. Andie Lynn Sullivan

    I thought this post was really cool because I always try to make the best out of a bad situation by making a joke or breaking an award silence using humor. Using humor in bad situations has always worked for me because it acts as a distraction for whatever is going on and helps lighten the mood. This article looks deeper into the benefits of using humor during a crisis.

    1. Xander Roker Post author

      This is known as the relief theory, (like I noted), and it’s definitely the type of humor that I find myself using the most. My friends often make fun of my laugh just as you said, but staying happy is staying healthy!

  8. Justine Gaines

    I loved reading your post since I love to laugh. My friends always make fun of me and say I laugh at absolutely everything but I really truly believe that laughter is the best medicine, like you said! I completely agree and see why laughter can relieve stress. I feel like whenever I am laughing really hard, I tend to forget about all my problems and just think about all the positives things in my life. Laughing at a good joke that brings you to tears or makes your stomach hurt makes you really love life! Here is a video that makes me crack-up every time I watch it. It is called the funniest and most stupid laughs ever, (which it truly is).

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