4 Benefits of Laughter According to Science

16 November, 2020
Laughter strengthens social and emotional relationships between people. The benefits of laughter range from improved cohesion between people, to significantly strengthening health.

There are many myths about the health benefits of laughter. However, at the same time, countless studies support this thesis.

Laughing is positive in any circumstance. But there’s a big difference between that and claiming that laughter cures cancer, as some do. Therefore, we want to invite you to take a look at what scientific evidence has to say on the subject.

One thing is certain: Any pleasant, healthy experience has a positive impact on physical health. Emotional balance helps to forge a greater physical balance and vice versa. Therefore, it would be foolish to deny the benefits of laughter on wellbeing. However, we shouldn’t exaggerate these benefits either.

Ancient Chinese and Roman cultures used tickling as a method of torture. They knew that all excess, even of laughter, is negative. On the other hand, science has discovered that healthy and frequent laughter does produce great benefits.

We’ll share a few of them below.

1. Release of endorphins, one of the benefits of laughter

benefits of laughter
Laughter benefits the brain in many ways.

The release of endorphins is the greatest of all the benefits of laughter. Endorphins are known as happiness hormones because they produce a feeling of physical and emotional wellbeing.

Psychologists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas published a study in 2012 in the journal Psychological Science. In it, they proved that laughter produces chemical changes in the body and that this gives rise to a feeling of well-being that lasts up to 24 hours.

Research has also shown that laughter causes an increase in the production of dopamine, another substance that contributes to a good mood. Simultaneously, it inhibits the production of cortisol, a substance known as “the stress hormone”.

Keep reading: The Quartet of Happiness

2. Laughter strengthens the cardiovascular system

A study carried out by Professor Michael Miller, from the University of Maryland (United States), points out that another benefit of laughter is the strengthening of the cardiovascular system. Miller experimented with a group of 20 volunteers to prove it.

The volunteers watched a sad movie and then a comedy. After the sad movie, it became clear that blood flow decreased in 70% of the participants. After watching the comedy, however, blood flow increased by an average of 20% in all volunteers.

Miller concludes that the best way to take care of the cardiovascular system is to exercise for 30 minutes, at least three days a week, and to laugh for 15 minutes daily.

3. Laughter is a pain reliever

benefits of laughter
Laughter is also a great way to form healthy bonds with others.

Discover more: The Keys to Happiness, According to Science

In 1976, Norma Cousins published a study in The New England Journal of Medicine. Cousins, who later wrote a book on the subject, claimed that she treated a very painful disease (ankylosing spondylitis) with episodes of Candid Camera and videos of The Marx Brothers, and vitamin C.

At the same time, psychiatrist Margaret Stuber, from the University of California UCLA, conducted experiments with children. She asked them to put their hands in cold water. She found that if they were watching funny videos, they tolerated the experience better and felt less stress.

The very production of a higher volume of endorphins causes physical pain to decrease. Therefore, we can say that endorphins are natural painkillers. In short, it’s basically proven that one of the benefits of laughter is increased pain tolerance.

4. The benefits of laughter on the immune system

The immune system is one of the most sensitive to changes in mood. Likewise, studies have proven that a good mood strengthens the body’s defenses. Therefore, it would follow that laughter contributes to strengthening the immune system and preventing infections.

There are inconclusive indications of other benefits of laughter as well. For example, many claim that it aids in weight loss, improves the appearance of the skin, strengthens the respiratory system, prevents insomnia, boosts the imagination, improves memory, and a thousand other things.

Although there’s no proof, it’s very plausible that it does contribute, in part, to all of this.

Human beings develop the ability to laugh soon after they are born. Unfortunately, as we grow up we also progressively lose this ability. While a child laughs on average 300 times a day, adults laugh between 15 and 100 times. Perhaps we need to become children again from time to time to improve our health!

  • García, E. A. L., Valle, J. F. T., & Bermúdez, C. A. R. (2011). Risa y salud: abordajes terapéuticos. MedUNAB, 14(1), 69-75.
  • Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and bear it: The influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychological science23(11), 1372-1378.
  • Ripoll, R. M. (2010). Medicina y terapia de la risa.