Is Laughter Really the Best Medicine?
A little comedy can even lift the darkest mood – and now it appears that a good laugh can work wonders for the body too.
Researchers have uncovered the most conclusive evidence yet of a link between laughter and the ability to fight disease.
In a study the researchers found roaring with laughter can boost the immune system up to 40%. They now believe health professionals should look more seriously at humor as a complementary therapy.
The research at Indiana State University involved 33 healthy women, half of whom watched a comedy video together, while the others watched a dull video on tourism. The comedy watchers could choose from films starring comedy stars, Tim Allen. Robin Williams and others. When the films were over, scientists took samples of the women’s immune cells, known as natural killer cells, and mixed them with cancer cells to see how effectively they attacked the disease.
They found that the women who had found the comedy funny enough to laugh out loud had significantly healthier immune systems afterwards than those who had watch the tourism film.
Dr. Mary Bennet, the lead researcher, said, “This could be clinically important. The use of humor to stimulate laughter could be an effective complimentary therapy to decrease stress and improve the natural killer cell activity in persons with viral illness or cancer.”
Humor workshops are already marketed for self-healing and stress relief. Complementary health experts believe this research shows the need for more services.
Edzard Ernst, Britain’s only professor of complementary medicine, said: “there is increasing evidence that laughter does more than just improve the mood. It is already being used in some pediatric wards. They bring people in to cheer up the kids. There is scope to expand this. We laugh too little.”
This article appeared in the Evening Standard, London, 10 April 2003.
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