Is laughter the best medicine?

Like my previous post, which questioned the importance of breakfast, there is a lot of questioning in regards to the common sayings our society has. For instance, “is laughter really the best medicine?” This saying dates back thousands of years ago, and has been said to originate in the Bible within Proverbs 17:22, which states that “A joyful heart is good medicine.” Although I do believe that I feel both better and relieved of stress after a good laugh, this anecdote holds no scientific power. It is this personal correlation that peaks my interest, and leads me to delve further into the science behind laughter and mirth.


Picture Source

So, is laughter the best medicine? If so, in what ways?

When attempting to find information on laughter’s effects, we must first ask if laughter can cure or prevent disease, if we can rule out reverse causation, and if reported experiments can be due to chance or a confounding variable.

Laughter has been seen to positively affect cardiovascular indexes. In a study done by University of Maryland Medical Center, humor responses were studied in a group of 300 participants. Half the participants had previous heart conditions (heart attacks, or coronary artery bypass surgery) and the other were completely healthy, and were similar in age. The study was done to see if the healthy people, with less fat and cholesterol levels within their cardiovascular system, had different laughter patterns compared to the unhealthy group. Within the study, they each were asked how they would respond to seemingly humorous situations with various multiple choice and true and false questions. According to the results, those with heart conditions appeared to laugh less compared to the other group in up to 40 percent of the given scenarios and questions. Because this experiment was conducted as such a large test, with 300 participants, it is given credibility. So… laughing helps the heart?

Laughing, as I personally feel, is believed to have a positive effect on stress levels. But I always wondered why would it effect my stress level… shouldn’t my stress be low when I am already in a positive mood since I am laughing? We look to natural killer cells, which are cells linked to the immune system. Given previous research, low natural killer cell activity is correlated with low disease resistance and has been known to worsen symptoms in patients with cancer and HIV. Laughter and mirth are thought to be beneficial to natural killer cell activity, assisting our cognitive behavior.

In another study completed at the Indiana State University Sycamore Nursing Center, two groups of women were divided into a treatment group and control group. The participants in each group were given questionnaires to assess their stress levels, both before and after the test. They were then compared in terms of blood tests regarding their natural killer cell levels based on the answers. The experiment was relatively small, as only 33 women participants were subject to the experiment. The tested treatment group watched a comical video, since the belief that laughter is based off of our sense of humor and comedy is accepted, while the other control group viewed a general video displaying tourism, which had no accepted comedic components. In result, the treatment group with the humorous video had self-reported that they had less stress after watching the video, which correlated to their higher scores on the questionnaire and higher number of natural kill cells compared to the control group. Out of this study, it was concluded that laughter may actually reduce stress!

However, there may be many confounding variables, such as a person’s given different sense of humor or ability to find humor out of given questions. The studies also do not rule out reverse causation, as a person whom has disease/disability may, as a result of illness, have a negative mood and could therefore be less open to laughter.

However, assuming that the studies’ methods are acceptable, their conclusions show that medicine does help positively affect one’s health, and could possibly help in more ways than these! We cannot conclude that laughter is the “best” medicine, as it has no mechanism for answering a problem (disease), for example it is no vaccine. We can, however, conclude that is good for you. I for one, love to laugh, and now knowing that it is even beneficial to my health to enjoy and find humor in situations, I am more motivated to live life to the fullest.


Picture Source


6 thoughts on “Is laughter the best medicine?

  1. Marissa Dorros

    After reading this post I’m still unsure if it is the laughter itself that offers benefits, or if it’s the positive emotions that are associated with laughter. The post originally caught my attention because it supports the hypothesis that laughter causes positive health effects, while the latest class test we took included a study that did not find a link between happiness and health. Considering this, could it be the laughter itself that causes positive effects on people? This website provides evidence that this might be the case. It explains that laughter releases endorphins, which are chemicals that cause changes in our emotional state. However, as Mallory mentioned, laughter does not always result from happiness, as people also laugh in other situations like while under stress or as a way to cope with nervousness.

  2. Mairead Donnard

    This was such an interesting blog! The two studies that you talked about were fascinating, but with this being said, I definitely feel like laughter is not necessarily the best medicine, but a pretty good one. Laughing truly helps you to forget your worries and focus on the good in life. Here is an article that you might find interesting: It talks about the science of laughing and how it has a similar impact on your body as working out.

  3. Michael A Lupo

    Laughter always seems to improve my mood. Whenever someone tells you something funny or you see something funny, I always seem to forget what I was thinking about at that time and just enjoy what was said or seen. I always feel less stressed when I can laugh a little at something. This is why I think pets are so beneficial to one’s well-being. At any moment, a pet of your choice can do something funny and instantly brighten your mood. I read another post on here about why pets are therapeutic and one of the main reasons for this is their ability to lighten your mood. I know personally my dog can brighten my day just by attempting to do something he knows he isn’t supposed to. There is just something comical about watching a dog try to sneakily put his nose on the dinner table to steal some scraps. In regards to the second study mentioned, I agree with you that third variables need to be taken into consideration. What some people find funny, others do not. This can skew the results and increase the difficulty of finding true data. I really don’t know how you could design an experiment that factors out a person’s sense of humor. It seems kind of impossible to differentiate between every person in the trials sense of what is funny. Because of this, I was inclined to find out what defines a “good” sense of humor. In this article, six signs are described which relate to having a good sense of humor. Take a look and see if you agree with any.

  4. John Carney

    Whats good Dante. I laugh 24/7 at anything and everything. I am the best audience because i just love to laugh. My family and I are always laughing and although its not a vaccine, I enjoy life to the fullest and just cant help but laugh. It helps brighten the mood even if your friends hate that you laugh at everything, the stress goes down and you just change the mood. Obviously laughter cant cure the common cold or the flu but the meaning behind the saying “laughter is the best medicine” just means that when you are down, laughing can cure u of sadness and can easily brighten the mood. I discovered an article when researching for topics to write on blog on and discovered a topic that fits your blog perfectly:
    This was an overall great blog and an interesting topic.

  5. Sarah Elizabeth Read

    I too, love to laugh. There is almost no feeling as great as when you’ve come away from a situation that makes you laugh so hard that your abs ache. As I was doing some additional research on laughter and its health benefits, I ran into a topic that caught my attention. Apparently, there is a form of yoga that exists called laughter yoga. From what I read, this type of yoga is a form that attempts to use laughter as a form of physical exercise. In a yoga laughter class, one fakes a laugh until it is so real that it becomes uncontrollable. At that point, it becomes exercise. And exercise–as we know– promotes all sorts of human health as well. Here’s the link to this article that explains laughter yoga in a little bit more depth!

  6. Mallory Dixon

    I found this article interesting because I know when I am having a bad day or if I am in a bad mood, I look for something to make me laugh or smile and it almost instantly makes me feel better. I think you did a really good job explaining this theory. A lot of my friends have the habit of laughing when they are stressed, sometimes they are not even laughing at anything at all. Would this still relieve some of their stress? They are still laughing but do they have to be looking at something or hearing something they find funny?

Leave a Reply