Humor Improves Health

ByABC News
November 13, 2001, 11:21 AM

B O S T O N, Nov. 19 -- It turns out television might be good for you after all at least if it's funny.

New research from the University of California's Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Irvine concludes that merely anticipating a funny event improved people's mood.

Previous work from these researchers found that laughter can increase the body's ability to fight off infection by increasing levels of key immune system components, and also by decreasing levels of stress hormones associated with poor immune function.

This new finding, however, is the first to suggest that anticipating a humorous event may do the same. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.

"We've demonstrated that watching a funny video can stimulate the body's ability to manage stress and fight disease," said Lee Berk, lead researcher for the study and professor of medicine at the UC Irvine College of Medicine. "But this is the first time we've seen that just anticipating such an event can change the body's responses."

Funny Videos Improve Health

For the current study, the moods of 10 men were evaluated two days before, 15 minutes before, and immediately following a viewing of a funny video of their choice. At each point their moods were evaluated using a standard test known as the profile of mood states, which assess levels of tension, anger, depression, fatigue, and confusion.

According to Berk, these negative mood categories have all been shown to increase stress hormone levels and reduce the effectiveness of the immune system.

The results showed that two days before viewing the video, levels of depression among the men dropped 51 percent, confusion went down 36 percent, anger fell 19 percent, fatigue 15 percent, and tension 9 percent.

Immediately after the men viewed the video, these mood levels dropped even more. Depression and anger both dropped 98 percent, fatigue fell by 87 percent, confusion was down 75 percent, and tension decreased by 61 percent.