I can’t be the only person to have heard somebody say that a good laugh is like cheap medicine, or something along those lines. Like most people, I love to laugh, but am I actually getting healthier? I understand that laughing can take someone’s mind off of something stressful, and maybe help them emotionally, but does laughter bring about a physical change in the body, does it heal?
All the studies and reports unanimously agree that laughter does in fact heal. Sincerely, I did not find a single piece of evidence that consists with the null hypothesis, that laughter does not heal. This result was not shocking, the alternative hypothesis (laughter does heal) was deemed to be correct. Before I even began research, I assumed that there had to be some truth to such a renowned statement.
The first study I looked at was performed by a many different research centers (four to be exact). The study was a randomized control trial. Its purpose was to see if laughter therapy would help combat the declining health of the elderly. I use the word “declining” because the study’s background describes how aging debilitates normal bodily functions. The trial had 72 participants; all participants were over the age of 60 and all were from the same retirement community center. The senior citizens were split into two groups: the control group and the experimental group. The control group were instructed to live out their lives as they normally would, whereas the experimental group had to attend laughter therapy sessions over a six-week period. The trial results, calculated mathematically, furnished a compelling relationship between laughter and “general health, somatic symptoms, insomnia and anxiety.” The researchers concluded that laughter has the chance to help improve the health of older individuals.
The University of Kentucky published a paper on laughter. The paper begins with some lighthearted, interesting facts about laughter, but quickly delves into all its known health benefits. The University of Kentucky based all of the health benefits of research on scientific evidence. Some health benefits are: a safer blood pressure, increase in pain threshold, reduction in the hormones associated with stress, a strengthened immune system, possible protection from a heart attack, increased brain function, regulated respiration, etc. The College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky seems to believe that the alternative hypothesis is correct.
This is another study whose results agree with the alternative hypothesis. This study, conducted in 1985 (accepted in 1987), wanted to see if laughter could affect an individual’s pain threshold. Within the study, two different randomized control trials were conducted. The first experiment had 40 people split into an experimental group and a control group. The experimental group listened to a 20-minute-long comedy track; the control group listened to either a non-humorous audio tape or no tape at all. After this, the test subjects were subjected to pressure induced discomfort. The experimental group had a higher threshold for pain than the control group. The second experiment was a non-randomized control trial. This trial enrolled 40 women with the same “pressure-induced discomfort thresholds.” Like the first experiment, the participants were split into an experimental group and a control group. The experimental group listened to the comedy tack and the control did a mundane task, listened to a non-humorous audio tape or did nothing at all. Again, the experimental track had a higher threshold for pressure-induced comfort. Rosemary Cogan, the scientist leading the experiment, concluded that laughter could potentially be used to reduce “clinical discomfort.” The University of Kentucky listed “an increase in pain threshold” as a health benefit. Therefore, the results of this study are also consistent with the alternative hypothesis.
Although this article is not a dependable source of scientific information, it lists the mental health benefits, physical health benefits, and the heart health benefits of laughter. I have already mentioned the mental and physical health benefits, that this article lists, earlier on in this blog post. The difference between this article and the others that I have read is that this article lists a possible mechanism on how laughter helps benefit heart health. The article says that based on some research (said research is not provided in the article), laughing increases blood flow due to a release of endorphins. Endorphins are defined on the first page in chapter 29 of the textbook “Progress in Brain Research.” Endorphins are “neuromessengers” that regulate “endocrine, automatic and behavioral functions.” These endorphins are also known to combat stress and negative feelings. Referring back to the original article, endorphins are usually increased in activities like working out or listening to music (both of these activities are known stress relievers). To sum it up, laughter takes stress off the heart, thus benefiting heart health.
The Mayo Clinic, which has been a dependable source of information for all my other blogs, also weighs in on how laughter is beneficial for one’s health. The clinic’s thesis is that laughter brings about different short-term health benefits, such as the stimulation of organs, the soothing of tension, and the alleviation of one’s “stress response.” The correlation between laughter and the stimulation of one’s organs is based on the intake of oxygen and the growth in the number of present endorphins (basically solidifying the views of the article linked in the previous paragraph). Once again, another piece of research consists with the alternative hypothesis.
I did not expect to find such an unanimously agreed upon consensus when I first began to question the validity of the statement. Since cannot be absolutely certain about hypothesis, this is as close as one can get to having absolute certainty. The correlation can be due to chance, but because there are mechanisms present, it seems unlikely. Why not laugh? More than just a couple scientists say it’s good for you. Unless laughing is prohibited where you are from, there are no consequences for it. Laugh away, it’s good for you.