“Laughter, the Best Medicine”

Topics: Medicine, Health, Immune system Pages: 5 (1447 words) Published: September 3, 2008
“A team of University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers, led by Dr. Michael Miller, has recently shown for the first time that laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels.” Another study by the University of Maryland School of Medical Center found that people with heart disease were forty percent less likely to laugh in situations compared to people the same age and without the disease. Miller found that people with heart disease laughed less in positive situations. People with the disease lack the optimistic perspective on life compared to people without the disease. Is a good dose of laughter a day able to keep your heart healthy? Nobody knows for sure why laughter helps protect the heart. We do know that laughter reduces stress. Too much stress will eventually cause fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries, which will lead to a heart attack (Murray 1).

Heart disease is mostly caused by lack of exercise, smoking, and eating foods enriched with saturated fat. A pessimistic outlook on life may also cause the disease, but humor is difficult to study. In America, heart disease is the number one killer. Is the easiness of attaining humor another role in living a healthier lifestyle, one can really only find out for themselves (Murray 1). “Research suggests that happier people get less sick, explains the reassuringly down-to-earth immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill of Trinity College Dublin” (O’Connell 1).

“Believe it or not, rats laugh. Yes, when the critters are not busy spreading plague or urinating in canals, they like to have a good old chuckle if you tickle them of when they play with their friends” (O’Connell 1).

According to Rod A. Martin, there are four mechanisms that might relate humor to a healthier well-being. “First, laughter might produce physiological changes in various systems of the body, which may have beneficial effects on health” (Martin 216). Authors have suggested that laughter exercises and relaxes muscles, betters respiration, increases circulation and the production of pain-killing endorphins, decreases the production of stress-related hormones, and enhances immunity. Everyone can benefit from laughter; there are no physical consequences (Martin 216).

“Second, humor and laughter might affect health by inducing positive emotional states, which may in turn have beneficial effects on health, such as increasing pain tolerance, enhancing immunity, and undoing the cardiovascular consequence of negative emotion”. Other emotions, such as joy, amusement, or love, are able to induce positive moods. Going out and doing fun activities may help health (Martin 216).

“Third, humor might benefit health indirectly by moderating the adverse effects of stress on health”. Stress weakens your immune system, and increases risks for diseases. People with a sense-of-humor are able to deal with stress better and not let it affect them in a way to where it lessens the stress-related physical consequences. Studies have shown that laughter during non-stressful situations is not as affective as laughter during stressful situations. Also certain styles of humor are more affective than others. For example, sarcasm is not that affective (Martin 216-17).

“Finally, humor may indirectly benefit health by increasing one’s level of social support”. Sense-of-humor helps people with relationships, intimate or not, by reducing tensions and problems. Humor helps a person appear friendlier or more attractive; people will want to be around that person more because of the optimistic atmosphere (Martin 217).

Most of the studies that have taken saliva of blood samples from people before and after a comedy video showed major changes in some of the components of immunity. However since the studies had no real control on some factors, it is difficult to create a firm conclusion (Martin 217). Another study showed that people with higher scores on a sense-of-humor test were less likely than people with...

Cited: Martin, R.A. “Is Laughter the Best Medicine? Humor, Laughter, and Physical Health.” Current Directions in Psychological Science Dec 2002: 216-220
O’Connell, Claire. “Laughter as best medicine.” Irish Times 1 Aug. 2006: 1-2
Murray, Michelle W. Feature Stories. University of Maryland Medical Center. 12 Nov. 2007 http://www.umm.edu/features/laughter.htm
Bennett, Howard J. “Humor in Medicine.” Southern Medical Journal 96 (2003) 1257-61.
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