Teenagers, are you tired of being harassed by your stu­pid par­ents? Act now. Move out, get a job, and pay your own bills – while you still know every­thing.’ — John Hinde


Laugh­ter relieves stress, makes you pull faces, and gets you tak­ing life a lit­tle less seri­ously. Let’s face it, laughing’s pretty darned funny, though too much of it and they’ll think there’s some­thing wrong with you. Look at Jim Carrey.

The Wash­ing­ton Post reports: ‘A hearty laugh a day may keep the doc­tor away, say the find­ings of a unique study. Whereas pre­vi­ous stud­ies have exam­ined how neg­a­tive emo­tions can adversely affect our health, this study took a new spin — they mea­sured the affect of watch­ing a funny movie on the abil­ity of heart blood ves­sels to expand. And they found some sur­pris­ing results — laugh­ing increased blood flow as much as a 15– to 30-minute workout.

The abil­ity of blood ves­sels to expand is known as vasodi­la­tion. Poor vasodi­la­tion means that pas­sage­ways may be blocked and blood flow may be cut off. The result is an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. In the study, 20 healthy men and women watched clips of two movies — a vio­lent bat­tle scene from “Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan” or a humor­ous scene from a com­edy such as “King­pin.” Each participant’s vasodi­la­tion was mea­sured prior to the movie and again afterward.

The results were “dra­matic.” Of the 20 par­tic­i­pants who saw the stress­ful film, 14 had sig­nif­i­cantly reduced blood flow. How­ever, after watch­ing the funny film, 19 of the 20 vol­un­teers had sig­nif­i­cantly increased blood flow. Specifically:

  • Blood flow decreased by about 35 per­cent after expe­ri­enc­ing stress
  • Blood flow increased by 22 per­cent after laugh­ing, which is equiv­a­lent to what hap­pens after a 15– to 30-minute workout.1

Paul J Rosch MD, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Insti­tute of Stress, agrees: ‘In one study of 2,500 senior cit­i­zens who were fol­lowed for six years, those who scored high on a hap­pi­ness quiz had much fewer strokes than those at the bot­tom of the scale. In another study of more than 200 middle-aged healthy Lon­don civil ser­vice employ­ees, those who reported feel­ing happy almost every day, whether while at work or on week­ends, were sig­nif­i­cantly health­ier and had lower heart rates than oth­ers who were not as con­sis­tently jolly and gleeful.

After adjust­ing for age, smok­ing, weight and other pos­si­ble influ­ences, it was found that peo­ple in the top fifth for daily hap­pi­ness scores had cor­ti­sol lev­els 32 per­cent lower than those in the bot­tom quin­tile. Hap­pi­ness was also linked to a lower aver­age heart rate in men. While the major­ity showed some rise in fib­rino­gen fol­low­ing the men­tal stress test, this was far greater for the least happy group com­pared to those at the other end of the scale.

ben­e­fits of laugh­ing reported by this and other groups here and abroad include:

  • Relax­ation and reduc­tion in mus­cle tension
  • Low­ered pro­duc­tion of stress hormones
  • Improved immune sys­tem function
  • Reduc­tion in blood pressure
  • Clear­ing the lungs by dis­lodg­ing mucous plugs
  • Increas­ing the pro­duc­tion of sali­vary immunoglob­u­lin A, which defends against infec­tious organ­isms that enter through the res­pi­ra­tory tract
  • Aer­o­bic effects that increased the body’s abil­ity to uti­lize oxygen
  • A rapid abil­ity to dis­re­gard aches and pains or to per­ceive them as less severe2

So get chortling. And please don’t laugh like an idiot.

1 Wash­ing­ton Post, 14th March 2005

2 Health and Stress, Novem­ber 2005 –