Laughter really is the best medicine

People feel less pain after a good laugh, because it may cause the body to release chemicals that act as a natural painkiller, research has suggested.

Scientists based at Oxford University found that when we laugh properly – as opposed to producing a polite titter – the physical exertion leaves us exhausted and thereby triggers the release of protective endorphins, brain chemicals that help us to manage pain and promote feelings of well being.  The research, which was partly conducted at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, suggests that watching just 15 minutes of comedy with others increased the pain threshold by an average of about ten per cent.

Lead author Professor Robin Dunbar, Head of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, said: “Very little research has been done into why we laugh and what role it plays in society. Using microphones, we were able to record each of the participants and found that in a comedy show, they laughed for about a third of the time, and their pain tolerance rose as a consequence”

In both primates and humans, laughter has been found to play an important role in social bonding, but it has received little attention in academic literature. This latest paper supports other work by Professor Dunbar that emphasises the importance of group activity – such as sport or music making – in producing endorphins.

Read more here: BBC News – Study reveals laughter really is the best medicine and the research article here: http://royalsociety.org/news/Laughter-is-the-best-medicine/

Gert-Jan Pepping is a consultant, researcher, and senior lecturer in Psychology of Human Movement and Sport at the School of Exercise Sciences of ACU, Brisbane.

Posted in Science General

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