Health Aspects

An implicit belief underlying most accounts of humor is that it confers psychological benefits. As reviewed by

Martin, the benefits of humor may also extend to the physiological level. For example, laughter is known to increase respiratory rate and clear mucus. It is entirely conceivable that laughter may thus be beneficial to patients with chronic respiratory conditions such as emphysema. The increased heart rate and blood pressure accompanying laughter can exercise the myocardium and improve arterial and venous circulation, allowing a greater flow of oxygen and nutrients to tissues. This in turn may facilitate the movement of immune elements useful in fighting infections. Muscle relaxation following hearty laughter may break the spasm-pain cycle in patients with neuralgias or rheumatism. A reduction in laryngeal muscle tension accompanying laughter may help patients with vocal fold pathology to produce a more relaxed voice, and it may facilitate the recovery of phonation in patients with psychogenic dysphonia, an inability to phonate during speech despite intact articulation and the absence of any identifiable pathology of the larynx. Finally, the increased catecholamine levels associated with laughter may be responsible for the beneficial effects humor is thought to exert on mental functions, such as alertness and creativity. Many of these claims of the healthful benefits of laughter and humor have yet to be subjected to systematic study.

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