Laughter can keep death from your door, especially if you are a woman. Results from a 15-year study in Norway published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in April showed that women who can see the lighter side of things live longer even when they are beset with illness, particularly heart disease and infections. In men, laughter appears to boost immunity only against infection.
Researchers in Norway studied the correlation between sense of humour and mortality among 53,556 women and men in their country using a questionnaire, and examined death from specific conditions: heart disease, infection, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseThey found that women with a jolly nature had a 48% lower risk of death from all causes, 73% lower risk of death from heart disease and 83% lower risk of death from infection. In men, high humour reduced the risk of death from infection by 74%. Why do women get a bigger immunity boost than men? The researchers thought men lost their sense of humour with age.
Study co-author Sven Svebak said laughter buffers against conflict in social interactions and overall stress, preventing the escalation of stress hormones, such as cortisol, that suppress immune functions.
Although genes also determine a person’s sense of humour, friendly socialisation can help those born to crabby parents.
“I expect that children who lack adult models for the use of humour as a coping resource are less likely to activate their sense of humour to cope with everyday life when they grow up,” Svebak said. But studies show people can learn to embrace the absurdity of life at any age.
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