Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on May 03, 2012

Sources

Miller, M. "Divergent Effects of Laughter and Mental Stress on Endothelial Function: Potential Impact of Entertainment," presented at the Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology, , Orlando, Fla., March 6-9 2005. News release, University of Maryland School of Medicine. WebMD Medical News: "Laughter May Build Healthy Blood Vessles." Diabetes Care, May 2003. WebMD Medical News: "Rx for Diabetes: Laughter." Fry, W. F. The Biology of Humor, Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 1994; vol 7: pp 111-126. RA, M. Humor, Laughter, and Physical Health: Methodological Issues and Research Findings. Psychological Bulletin. July 2001; vol 127: pp 504-519.

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Video Transcript

: (Laughter…)

Narrator: Mark Twain once quipped, "he who laughs…lasts." The American humorist would probably chuckle if he knew about the growing body of scientific evidence that adds weight to his words of levity.

Cheryl Lattimore: I feel like I've got a burst of energy (laughs)…you're going to get a heart after all. And you, you're going to get a brain…

Narrator: Research shows laughter can improve your health: It helps reduce stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenalin, and pumps up immune system activity by increasing interferon, T cells and white blood cells. A hearty guffaw or belly laugh can also boost heart rate, improves blood flow, and stabilizes blood pressure.

Jamie Moore: I very rarely get sick. And when I do get sick it's for very short periods of time.

Narrator: In study after study, findings on this most cherished of human traits are giving us all something to smile about: Diabetic patients saw their blood sugar levels rise less after eating a meal at a comedy show; laughing improves digestion and speeds up respiration and blood circulation; in fact, laughing 100 or more times a day may have the same health benefits as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise! Not feeling funny? Well, don't get uptight; it may be that laughter doesn't have to be genuine to be effective: Zoe Haugo is a Laugh Group leader who routinely uses fake laughter to bring on the real thing…

Zoe Haugo: There are a lot more smiles on people's faces and just people are loose and limbered up and they're connecting with each other more.

Narrator: Psychologists agree. While research continues on the role of laughter in easing depression, many therapists have begun incorporating humor into their counseling sessions.

Edward Z. Rosenzweig, PhD: To me in some ways it's a marker for improvement. Someone can acknowledge a funny moment and laugh with me.

Marjorie Blum, PhD: It helps us develop a synchrony. I lean in they lean in a bit. There's a report that gets built.

Narrator: Data on the medical benefits of humor continues to mount. But while it does, why not laugh it up? For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg