Every party has one. You know who I’m talking about. They are the one in the center of the room, smiling, joking, laughing and drawing the rest of us into their world of happiness. They’re the life of the party and we’re drawn to them like bees to flowers. They make the party merry and festive. Always happy, cheerful, high spirited, joking and laughing, they bring a sense of festiveness and gaiety which is contagious. Everyone’s disposition and mood is improved just by being around them. It turns out that laughter just may benefit us in more ways than just improving our mood.
Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center recently completed a study of 300 participants aimed at measuring how laughter, coupled with a great sense of humor, may impact our heart health. This isn’t their first close look at the benefits of laughter and the results build on previous work. The study participants were a mixture in terms of heart health. Half were heart disease free while the remaining participants had heart disease (specifically, heart attack or bypass surgery). During the course of the study, participants completed multiple questionnaires designed to see measure the amount of laughter they exhibited in when exposed to various situations. Participants were also given questionnaires designed to measure their more negative responses such as anger and hostility.
At the end of the study, researchers found that the participants with heart disease were not as, well, happy, as their heart disease free counterparts. In fact, the heart disease group had a good case of the grumpies. When it came to laughter, they laughed much less (40 percent less) than their heart disease free counterparts. In addition, they were found to have greater levels of negative emotions (anger and hostility). The high levels of anger and hostility were apparent even when the situation wasn’t really negative.
A 40 percent difference in responses is significant which leads us to the question, why the big difference? One reason may be increased mental stress in the heart disease group.