- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Laughter
may be the best medicine, but even looking forward to having a good laugh
can boost the immune system and reduce stress, U.S. researchers reported
- Just anticipating a happy, funny event can raise levels
of endorphins and other pleasure and relaxation-inducing hormones and lower
production of stress hormones, a team at the University of California Irvine
- "This stuff is real," Lee Berk, an assistant
professor of family medicine and researcher in complementary and alternative
medicine who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
- "This study shows that even knowing you will be
involved in a positive humorous event days in advance reduces levels of
stress hormones in the blood and increases levels of chemicals known to
aid relaxation," he said.
- His team tested 16 men who all agreed they thought a
certain videotape was funny. Half of them were told three days in advance
they would watch it.
- Those who knew in advance they would see the video started
experiencing biological changes right away, Berk told a meeting of the
Society for Neuroscience in Orlando, Florida.
- When the men watched the video, levels of cortisol, a
stress hormone, fell 39 percent, Berk found. Epinephrine, also known as
adrenaline, fell 70 percent, while levels of the feel-good hormone endorphin
rose 27 percent and growth hormone levels rose by 87 percent.
- "Growth hormone is very beneficial to the immune
system," Berk said.
- This all suggests that anticipation of a funny event
can lower stress and stimulate the immune system, Berk said.
- He said he had to work with a small group of similar
men because he could not decide for them what would be funny. "Say
you can't stand Laurel and Hardy -- watching a slapstick Laurel and Hardy
video would be stressful for you," he said.
- "This group picked a fellow who uses the 'sledgeamatic'
-- a big sledgehammer and smashes fruit," Berk added.
- Berk and others had already shown that actually watching
a funny video, or just laughing at a joke, could make healthful changes
in the levels of hormones involved in stress and lower blood pressure.
In 2000 a team at the University of Maryland reported that people who reported
using humor more often were less likely to have had heart attacks.
- But this is the first time that someone has shown anticipation
of having fun has similar effects, Berk said.
- "You have been thinking about it all day, so you
experience a change in biology even before you get there," Berk said.
"That is therapeutic."
- Berk said the finding strengthens the advice that everyone
lighten up a little to live longer. "Anticipation is half or two-thirds
the fun," he said.
- Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited
without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable
for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance