How Laughter Affects Your Mood And Health (And It’s Not All Good)

Is laughter really the best medicine? Not always.

How Laughter Affects Your Mood And Health (And It’s Not All Good)
[Image: Flickr user Eden, Janine and Jim]

Laughter might not be the best medicine after all.


Researchers Robin Ferner and Jeffrey Aronson point out in the British Medical Journal that its curative qualities have mostly been assumed. Here are both sides of the argument.

Why laughter is good for you

The more you laugh, the happier you (probably) are

A study compared the residents of 366 residents of Aurangabad, India, with 364 participants from Mississauga, Canada. The cross-cultural results: both Indians and Canadians felt greater emotional well-being the more that they laughed. While correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation, the authors made a recommendation: doctors should include your laughter history in your medical history.

Laughter lightens your heart

Laughter has been shown to lower the stiffness of your arterial walls, which means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard at getting blood pumped around your body. You could say, in other words, that laughter loosens you up.

Laughter burns up calories

Laughing “genuine laughter” for 15 minutes dramatically increases the number of calories you burn. So next time you go for a run, listen to Louis CK.

Why laughter is bad for you

Can a chortle be more like a choke?

Laughter can trigger an asthma attack

So bring your inhaler.


Laughter can dislocate your jaw

So look out.

Laughter makes you more susceptible to branding

Folks tend to ignore or get annoyed by advertising, which psychologists call resistance. Humor helps defuse that annoyance, researchers have found–and helps place better brand associations within people’s memories. So if you want people to think well of your company, make them laugh.

For all of their British thoroughness, Ferner and Aronson caution that the results are tentative. This is why:

It remains to be seen whether, for example, sick jokes make you ill, if dry wit causes dehydration, or jokes in bad taste cause dysgeusia, and whether our views on comedians stand up to further scrutiny.

Hat tip: the British Medical Journal


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.