Researchers have discovered that laughter may indeed be the best medicine after all.New research published in Pro Swan found that spontaneous laughter significantly lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has a positive effect on overall health.
When the human body responds to stress, whether physical (such as an illness) or psychological (such as the anticipation of a threat), a system called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated. . As part of this, a stress hormone known as cortisol is released.
Some studies suggest that spontaneous laughter may lower cortisol levels. Real laughter is intuitive, and brain pathways specific to laughter develop before those for speech. Laughter and humor have been shown to have health benefits in a variety of medical settings, including increasing pain tolerance and improving overall well-being.
Many studies have suggested that laughter can reduce cortisol levels, but these studies often involved only a small number of subjects, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. .
To clarify this further, researchers Caroline Kaercher Kramer (based at the University of Toronto, Canada) and Cristiane Bauermann Leitao (based at Porto Alegre Hospital, Brazil) conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies. Did.
This process included pooling relevant literature and scrutinizing it in its entirety to ensure that the impact of spontaneous laughter on stress responses as measured by cortisol levels was assessed.
Kramer and Litao focused on randomized controlled trials (in which participants are randomly assigned to either the experimental or control group) and quasi-experiments (true experiments without random assignment).
Four randomized controlled trials and four quasi-experiments published from 1989 to 2021 were selected and included data from a total of 315 participants with an average age of approximately 39 years.
Laughter was stimulated by participants in the experimental group watching comedy movies (5 studies), receiving laughter therapy by a trained laughter therapist (2 studies), or self-administered laughter therapy. (1 study). The control group completed normal activities without humor.
Cortisol levels were measured through blood or saliva samples, and changes in cortisol levels before and after laughing were compared between the experimental and control groups.
This is what researchers discovered. Analysis of the data revealed an overall significant reduction in laughter-induced cortisol levels (31.9%) compared to the control group.
Upon further investigation, the authors found that even a single laughter session (lasting between 9 and 60 minutes) caused a significant reduction in cortisol levels (36.7%) compared to the control group.
Interestingly, duration of laughter had no effect on cortisol levels.
“Impact on” [the] The HPA axis found in our analysis is of great concern since excessive/long-term cortisol secretion associated with chronic HPA axis stimulation negatively impacts both physical and psychological diseases such as obesity, depression, and chronic pain. suggests that laughter has a positive effect on overall health. ” Kramer and Litao.
The authors highlighted how their results support other studies demonstrating the benefits of laughter and cortisol reduction.
Laughter has been shown to have a protective effect on the heart, reducing the chance of developing coronary heart disease. The results also confirm the literature highlighting the potentially positive metabolic effects of lower cortisol levels, such as increased stimulation of hair follicles, which may ultimately lead to hair growth.
Some limitations should be noted. One is that there are differences in how laughter is elicited across studies. The time at which participants’ cortisol levels were measured varied between studies, and this may have also influenced the results.
the study, “Laughter as medicine: A systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies assessing the effects of spontaneous laughter on cortisol levels‘ is written by Caroline Kärcher Kramer and Christian Bowerman Leitao.