Is Humour Really Responsible for Enhanced Wellbeing?

  • C. Moran


Background: Many claims are made that humour enhances wellbeing and is a direct form of coping. Method: This paper evaluates the status of positive humour in research on wellbeing. There are numerous forms of humour presented in the literature. In research on wellbeing, humour is most commonly operationalised as either laughter or sense of humour. There are experimental methods to induce laughter, whereas sense of humour is measured as a dispositional trait. Findings: Induction of laughter increases pain thresholds; Endorphins are posited as the underlying mechanism explaining the effect of laughter on pain, but there is mixed evidence to support the claims. It is possible laughter works via distraction. In studies on infection, laughter is related to physiological changes, eg SIgA, but not necessarily better health, eg fewer respiratory infections. Sense of humour is associated with subjective reports of better health, positive mood, and ability to deal with stress. The effects are likely to be mediated by personality. Additionally, greater use of an affiliative style of humour is associated with social support and social networking, themselves important for wellbeing. Finally, some types of humour are harmful. Discussion: Humour has pleasant hedonic qualities and is related to wellbeing across a large array of studies. Such relationships may be mediated rather than direct. Inducing laughter may be easier than changing sense of humour to enhance wellbeing, but less permanent.
Poster presentations