Useful Research Documents

Laughter and Stress Reducation

Study Finds Anticipating A Laugh Reduces Stress Hormone

SAN DIEGO, CA – In 2006 researchers investigating the interaction between the brain, behaviour, and the immune system found that simply anticipating a mirthful laughter experience boosted health-protecting hormones. Now, two years later, the same researchers have found that the anticipation of a positive humorous laughter experience also reduces potentially detrimental stress hormones. According to Dr. Lee Berk, the study team’s lead researcher of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, “Our findings lead us to believe that by seeking out positive experiences that make us laugh we can do a lot with our physiology to stay well.”

In their earlier work the researchers found that the anticipation of “mirthful laughter” had surprising and significant effects. Two hormones – beta-endorphins (the family of chemicals that alleviates depression) and human growth hormone (HGH; which helps with immunity) – increased by 27 and 87 percent respectively when volunteers anticipated watching a humorous video. There was no such increase among the control group who did not anticipate watching the humor film.

Using a similar protocol, the current research found that the same anticipation of laughter also reduced the levels of three stress hormones. Cortisol (termed “the stress hormone”), epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and dopac, a dopamine catabolite (brain chemical which helps produce epinephrine), were reduced 39, 70 and 38 percent, respectively (statistically significant compared to the control group).  Chronically released high stress hormone levels can weaken the immune system.

The research is entitled Cortisol and Catecholamine Stress Hormone Decrease Is Associated with the Behavior of Perceptual Anticipation of Mirthful Laughter. It was conducted by Lee Berk with Stanley A. Tan, both of the Oak Crest Health Research Institute, Loma Linda, CA; and Dottie Berk, Loma Linda University Health Care, Loma Linda.  Lee Berk is presenting the team’s findings at the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society (APS;, part of the Experimental Biology 2008 scientific conference.

The Study

Having found that the anticipation of a laughter event increased certain “beneficial” chemicals/hormones, the researchers proposed that the anticipation of a laughter event might reduce stress hormones. To test their theory they studied 16 healthy fasting male volunteers for cortisol and catecholamine level changes. The participants were assigned to either the control group or the experiment group (those anticipating a humorous event).

Blood was drawn from both groups prior to the event (anticipation), four times during the event, and three times afterward (event and residual effect). Analysis showed that the blood levels in the anticipatory phase decreased for stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine and dopac in the experimental group. Trend analysis showed a progressive pattern of the decrease for the three hormones through the event.

As a result, the researchers suggest that anticipating a positive event can decrease stress hormones that can be detrimental when chronically released. These findings have implications for understanding the modalities that can benefit stress reduction in health and wellness programs.

Click for further info Study Finds Body’s Response to Repetitive Laughter is Similar to The Effect of Repetitive Exercise 

Released April 26, 2010 — Since the 1980s, California researchers have been studying the human body’s response to mirthful laughter and have found that laughter helps optimize many of the functions of various body systems. They are the first to establish that laughter helps optimize the hormones in the endocrine system, which leads to stress reduction. They have also shown that laughter has a positive effect on modulating components of the immune system, including increased production of antibodies and activation of the body’s protective cells, including T-cells and especially Natural Killer cells’ killing activity of tumor cells.

“Mirthful Laughter,” Coupled With Standard Diabetic Treatment, Raises Good Cholesterol And May Lower Heart Attack Risk

Released April 17, 2009 – A new study reports on the mind-emotion-disease model. “Mirthful laughter,” with standard diabetic treatment, was found to raise good cholesterol and may lower heart attack risk, according to the researchers.

Fabulous to see this report below on Laughter taken seriously in Canada.

“Occasional visits by a professional, specially trained clown has been shown to improve the emotional condition of hospitalized children, relieve tension amongst family members and improve the work environment for nurses, doctors and other health-care professionals. Working in tandem with departments at over 35 hospitals and health care facilities across Canada, clowns have proven themselves to be a valuable, if somewhat intangible, part of healing and quality of life.”

I would love to see more laughter here in the UK within therapeutic environments and within the NHS and with Laughter Yoga with have an incredible tool to offer this. We are getting there but I look forward to the day that laughter is prescribed at every hospital and every home for the elderly here in the U.K.

New Laughter Yoga Research

Two studies completed in 2007 may help convince the business world of the potential of Laughter Yoga for business. Both studies used a series of Laughter Yoga sessions (rather than funny movies or humour) to generate laughter in the workplace and measured stress and emotional variables before and after the course of the study.

Bangalore Study

In December 2006, Laughter Yoga International commissioned a scientific research project involving 200 IT professionals in Bangalore, India, to study the effects of Laughter Yoga on their stress levels. Seven Laughter Yoga sessions were administered to half the group over an 18 day period, with physiological, immunological and psychological tests performed on each person before and after the Laughter Yoga sessions. The study was undertaken by one of India’s leading scientific research organizations. The results of the Bangalore study were extremely positive. In the Laughter Yoga group there was a significant drop in heart rate, blood pressure dropped significantly, cortisol levels were significantly reduced, positive emotions increased by 17% and negative emotions dropped by 27%, perceived stress dropped significantly, and Alexithymia dropped by almost 9%, indicating a significant improvement in emotional intelligence.

US Study (Beckman, Regier & Young)

Another important 2007 study in the United States looked at the effects of Laughter Yoga on personal efficacy in the workplace. Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to organize and carry out courses of action necessary to achieve a goal or manage a situation (Bandura, 1986). This personal belief influences the choices people make, the effort they put forth into working toward a goal, how long they persist when confronted with obstacles, and how they feel during the process of working toward goals. Self-efficacy beliefs affect performance in the workplace. Personal efficacy testing was done the week before, the week after, and 60-90 days after the series of daily Laughter Yoga sessions. Laughter Yoga was administered for 15 minutes a day for 14 days. The results show significant improvements of the Laughter Yoga group in all areas, with positive changes of 100% occurring in a number of areas. It is particularly interesting to note the long-lasting effects of the laughter interventions.

Happiness and Productivity Study

Did you know “Happy employees are 12% more productive” New research suggests we work more effectively, creatively, and collaboratively when we’re happy at work.  The 700-person experiment was conducted by the Social Market Foundation and the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy.  Four kinds of experiment were done and each produced evidence consistent with the idea that ‘happier’ workers are intrinsically more productive.

Please check in again as I will add more research info to this page over time. There is a lot more research and new studies being carried out all the time.

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