It’s Official! A Good Laugh is The Best Medicine For A Healthy Life

Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
on August 22, 2021

The next time you have a good laugh make it a belly laugh. It will do you a world of good.

Laughter and good humour is the perfect medicine for a healthy life, according to new research published this week in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, A systematic review of humour-based strategies for addressing public health priorities. Monash University’s Professor Helen Skouteris said the study was an “encouraging first step” towards implementing humour-based messaging more broadly across public health.

“Humour is enjoyable. People are drawn to it – they want to look at it and be part of it,” said Professor Skouteris. “Importantly, this review highlighted that humour can be utilised as a tool to encourage conversation and sharing. It’s not just a way to send a message but actually encourages people to talk about it and be open with others, which we believe can lead to influencing society’s perceptions and behaviours around important public health prevention messages.”

Professor Skouteris said further research was necessary to examine how humour worked specifically in public health settings.

Scottish comedian and women’s health physiotherapist Elaine Miller worked on the research with the Monash University team. She said: “I have seen comedy used to address the most taboo subjects on stage. My field is incontinence which is often very embarrassing for people to talk about, but because laughter is universal it has the potential to reach people broadly.”

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Gilbert Anthony at Pexels

This review analysed 13 studies over the past 10 years whereby humour had been used to communicate serious messages covering topics such as mental health, breast and testicular cancer self-examination, safe sex, skin cancer and binge drinking. “What we found is that humour can act as an effective vehicle for delivering messages people might find fear-inducing or threatening,” said Elaine. “Humour, if used well, can be an emotional buffer that breaks down some of that fear so the underlying messages reach the intended audience and influence their behaviours and attitudes.”

The study highlighted a number of factors that could impact the effectiveness of a humour-based message, including the level and type of fear or perceived threat, the ‘taboo’ nature of the topic and an individual’s taste in humour.

“It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach. A poorly judged joke can ruin a health campaign’s message, a therapeutic relationship, a gig; or all three of those at once. Humour is very complex and further research to examine humour and public health promotion is certainly warranted,” she added.

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Andrea Piacquadio at Pexels

“What this study also highlighted is, there’s a lot of us who work in health promotion who can learn from commercial advertising and public safety campaigns, such as road and rail safety where humour has been shown to attract attention, promote the memory of and positive attitudes towards an advertisement, brand or message.”

Professor Skouteris said further research was necessary to examine how humour worked specifically in public health settings.

“Most of the research done to date has focused on humour and health outcomes in clinical settings so it’s important we look more broadly at how humour may influence behavioural intentions and public health outcomes out of those acute health settings,” she said.

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Andrea Piacquadio at Pexels

Elaine Miller added that she also hoped to take some of this further research on the comedy circuit. “I’m planning to tour my show and survey the audience to establish prevalence of pelvic health conditions and whether a comedy show can encourage help-seeking,” she said.

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