Anticipating Funny Events Boosts Immune System

by Cathryn Conroy, Netscape News Editor
(Jan 2003)


Enjoying a good laugh - and even anticipating laughter - can actually boost your immune system and reduce stress, Reuters reports of new research from the University of California-Irvine. Laughing raises our levels of endorphins and other pleasure and relaxation-inducing hormones while it lowers the production of stress hormones. In other words, laugh a lot for better health. "This stuff is real," Lee Berk, an assistant professor of family medicine and researcher in complementary and alternative medicine, who led the study, told Reuters. "This study shows that even knowing you will be involved in a positive humorous event days in advance reduces levels of stress hormones in the blood and increases levels of chemicals known to aid relaxation," he added.
The California researchers tested 16 men, all of whom agreed that a specific videotape was funny. Eight of the men were told three days in advance that they would get to see the funny videotape. Berk says that those men immediately began experiencing biological changes. When they actually watched the video, their levels of the stress hormone cortisol fell 39 percent. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, fell 70 percent, while levels of the feel-good hormone endorphin rose 27 percent and growth hormone levels, which are important to the immune system, climbed a whopping 87 percent.
This study is the first to show that anticipating a funny event has the same biological effect as participating in it. "You have been thinking about it all day, so you experience a change in biology even before you get there," Berk told Reuters. "That is therapeutic."