Physical health and benefits of humor

May 29, 2020

University Relations

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This is part of series of blog posts on humor and wellness from the Student Health and Counseling Center.

Most of us feel physically better after a good laugh. However, when you review the scientific research about physical benefits of laughter, there is actually a surprising level of doubt and contradiction in researchers’ findings and opinions. One the one hand, humor and laughter have been associated with numerous benefits, such as:

  • improving the immune system

  • increasing circulation

  • decreasing physical tension

  • relieving pain

  • lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes

  • higher survival rate among patients diagnosed with cancer

  • decreased digestive difficulties in patients diagnosed with IBS

Even fake laughter has been linked to health benefits. Impressive sounding, right? Some researchers remain unconvinced, though.

"'I don't mean to sound like a curmudgeon,' says Provine, 'but the evidence that laughter has health benefits is iffy at best.' For instance, Provine says studies of laughing have often not looked at the effects of other, similar activities. 'It's not really clear that the effects of laughing are distinct from screaming,' Provine says.’"

The UAF Student Health and Counseling Center is not going to recommend screaming for health! Instead, we believe that adding more humor to your life likely has low risk and good physical reward. As scientists, here’s how we approach the contradiction in literature: Laughter and humor may benefit people not solely due to the act of laughing, but due to how it connects people or because it reflects a positive disposition. Thus, we hope you’ll add some humor to your social life. In fact, we have words to say in another blog post about why humor can be great for relationships. Over time, humor can become a routine and potentially part of your disposition.

The short story is: Humor may help your health. Add a dash more to your life and try it out.