We’ve all heard that laughter is good medicine. It’s not a new idea (even the Old Testament Bible prescribes it) but does it really have a tangible benefit?
Proving the health benefits of laughter is tricky. Throughout nearly every sphere of medicine, there are published reports of people feeling less pain and more relaxed after a good giggle. Some have even claimed patients recover from illnesses faster. Getting concrete proof for this is almost impossible – it’s difficult to measure and can’t be given like a tablet.
Nevertheless, laughter is harmless (unless you have a particularly nasty abdominal wound) and there is a lot of data to suggest that it is good. A hearty chortle reduces levels of stress hormones and boosts the immune system. Researcher Dr Miller reckons there will be a time in the future when family doctors will recommend 15-20 minutes of laughter a day in the same way they advocate 30 minutes of exercise.
Perhaps the most pragmatic approach is to follow the advice of top laughter researcher Robert Provine, who says that “until the scientists work out all the details, get in all the laughter that you can!”
So if you’re lacking on the festive chuckle front, then here is perhaps one of the best British Christma comedy scenes (as requested by Guru reader Tim Adlam) to warm the cockles. It’s Mr Bean, before he was famous…
An excellent review of the literature on laughter can be found at:
Strean WB (2009). Laughter prescription. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 55 (10), 965-7 PMID: 19826144