Study: Laughter Improves People's Reaction to Stress

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People who laugh daily may be better equipped to deal with stressful events, according to new research from the University of Basel published in PLOS ONE (July 9, 2020). 

The researchers from the Division of Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology of the Department of Psychology at the University of Basel conducted a  longitudinal study in which an app prompted participants to answer questions eight times a day for 14 days. The questions related to the frequency and intensity of laughter and the reason for laughing, as well as any stressful events or symptoms experienced. 

The study's lead authors, Dr. Thea Zander-Schellenberg and Dr. Isabella Collins, then looked at the relationships between laughter, stressful events, and physical and psychological symptoms of stress (such as headaches or restlessness) in subjects' daily lives. Their analysis was based on data from 41 psychology students, 33 of whom were women, with an average age of 22.

They found that in phases in which the subjects laughed frequently, stressful events were associated with more minor symptoms of subjective stress. But when it came to the relationship between stress and intensity of laughter (strong, medium or weak), there was no statistical correlation with stress symptoms, meaning that the insensity of the laughter doesn't appear to factor into how someone deals with stress. "This could be because people are better at estimating the frequency of their laughter, rather than its intensity, over the last few hours," noted the research team.

"Future studies need to replicate our findings in order to test the model’s robustness," added the researchers. "A future ... design might include wearables with reliable sensor technique to assess physiological symptoms of stress at the moment of occurrence, such as pulse rate or skin conductance level, possibly in populations experiencing high levels of stress in their daily lives."

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