Humour has been empirically proven to be a moderator of stress (Lefcourt & Thomas, 1998).

Neurological studies demonstrate the endocrinological and neurological benefits of humour and laughter and how they can reduce the physical and mental effects of stress.

Thank you to the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humour and other colleagues for this abbreviated list.

The Effect of Laughter Therapy on Anxiety: A Meta-analysis
Dogan, Melike Demir. Holistic Nursing Practice (Jan/Feb 2020). 2020.


This meta-analysis looked at the results of four existing trials on the effects of laughter therapy on patients with anxiety. With the trials including over 150 subjects in all, laughter therapy was found to be consistently effective in reducing anxiety.

Humor Perception in Schizophrenia Appears to be Related to Disorganization Syndrome
Darin, Artur. Comprehensive Psychiatry (Jan. 2020). 2020.


This article examines the ways that schizophrenia can affect a person’s ability to understand humor. The 40 subjects in the study were asked to assess 60 cartoons and 60 humorous stories.

Self-Deprecating Humor Versus Other-Deprecating Humor in Health Messages
Li, Ji Young; Slater, Michael D.; . Journal of Health Communication. 2015.


Humor is a common component in health education messages, and it is has been found to be effective in getting the information across to the recipient. But are some types of humor better than others in this context? In this study, humorous and nonhumorous messages, and those that used self-depreciating vs. other-depreciating messages in educational messages about binge drinking. Significant differences were seen in the acceptability of the messages among various types of drinkers.

Whatever Gets You Through Today: An Examination of Cynical Humor Among Emergency Service Professionals
Rowe, Alison; Regehr, Cheryl. Journal of Loss and Trauma 15/5 (2010). 2010.


Humor, particular dark and ‘gallows’ humor is commonly used by health professionals to help them cope with job stress. This article addresses the need for humor among these people, particular those in emergency medicine.

Communicating Death with Humor: Humor types and functions in death over dinner conversations
South, Andrea Lambert; Elton, Jessica; Lietzenmayer, Alison M.. Death Studies (2020). 2020.


How do families talk about death? Are such conversations humorous or serious? When the conversations of 84 family groups were analyzed, six specific types of humor were found, including entertainment humor, gallows humor, tension-relieving humor and confused/awkward laughter,

Humor in Critical Care: No Joke
Buxman, K.. AACN Clinical Issues 11/1 (Feb. 2000). 2000.


Critical care nursing is one of the most stressful jobs in any hospital. Humor is a valuable tool to help these nurses cope with the stress. However, there are times when humor is not appropriate, and types of humor that are never appropriate in these settings. So the nurse must be aware both of what is useful for the nurse, and what is appropriate to the setting.

Effect of humor training on stress, cheerfulness and depression in patients with coronary artery disease and refractory angina pectoris
Voss. Herz (2019). 2019.


(Article in German. Abstract in English.) Angina pectoris refers to recurring cardiac pain related to coronary artery disease. People with angina, like other chronic pain patients, are subject to depression and make heavy use of the health care system. This study looked at the effects of a humor training program the mental health of 31 mostly female patients with refractory angina pectoris. After 7 weeks of weekly sessions, patients showed significant increases in cheerfulness and reduced cortisol levels (indicating lower physical stress.)

Effects of Mirthful Laughter on Pain Tolerance: A Randomized Controlled Investigation
LaPierre, Stephanie S.; Baker, Brett D.; Tanaka, Hirfumi. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 23/4 (Oct. 2019).


Can laughter reduce levels of chronic pain? That was the question asked by this study. 40 healthy volunteers had pain induced by exercise, and then viewed a comedy program designed to induce real, mirthful laughter, and a boring documentary. Positive affect was improved by watching the comedy, and reduced after the documentary. However, while pain tolerance was decreased through watching the documentary, there was no significant change from baseline in response to the comedy.

A Lifetime of Fear of Being Laughed At.
Platt, T.; Ruch, W.; Proyer, R.T.. Zeitschrift fur Gerongologie und Geriatrie (Feb. 2010).

Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review

Laughter occurs at the moment cognitive imbalance — that is, the point of discrepancy or disharmony — disappears and balance recovers

Gelotophobia, a fear of being laughed at, often results from the person’s inability to correctly read social signals from others; positive signals like smiles and laughter may be misinterpreted as ridicule. This population also has lower humor scores overall. In this paper, authors look at gelotophobia in older adults, finding that age-related vulnerabilities can worsen the condition.

Self-effacing wit as a response to oppression: Dynamics in ethnic humor

Self-effacing wit and ethnic humor can be used by members of the particular ethnic group as a response to oppression and a tool for acculturation — or as a means of self-empowerment. This paper looks specifically at the use of Jewish humor to meet these needs, and how its role has changed over time.

Coping Humor of Entrepreneurs: Interaction Between Social Culture and Entrepreneurial Experience
Lin, Song; Li, Jing; Rui, Han. Frontiers in Psychology (Aug. 2018). 2018.

Entrepreneurship can be a very high stress career. This study of 171 Chinese entrepreneurs looks at how they use humor to cope with work stress. Positive social support seems to be a major factor in the use of humor in this context.

Cultural Differences in Humor Perception, Usage, and Implications
Jiang, Tonglin; Li, Hao; Hou, Yubo. Frontiers in Psychology (2019). 2019.

While humor, in general, in a universal part of life, the specifics of humor are largely cultural. What people find funny, in what settings humor is appropriate and humor’s place in daily life vary widely between cultures. Eastern/Asian cultures are less likely, for example, to use humor as a coping strategy. Despite this difference, this article finds that the two groups are similar in their relationships between humor and psychological well-being.

Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review
Yim, JongEun. The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine 239/3 (2016). 2016.

Technical/theoretical article on how laughter affects the brain and the release of beneficial hormones. Author explains how and why these effects can improve mental health, reducing stress and improving depressive symptoms. With no risks or negative side effects, there is no reason to not include laughter therapy in mental health treatment.

The Use of Humor in Psychotherapy: Views of Practicing Psychotherapists
Hussong, Devin K.; Micucci,Joseph. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health (2020). 2020.

Ten practicing psychotherapists give their views on the use of humor in their practices.

Humor Associated With Positive Outcomes in Individual Psychotherapy
Panichelli, Christophe. American Journal of Psychotherapy 71/3 (2018). 2018.

Humor appears to be a helpful component of psychotherapy. For this study, 110 patients and their therapists assessed the frequency and type of humor used during sessions, and how it influenced outcomes. Humor was found to increase pleasure and hope, even among the most seriously ill patients.

Is an Ideal Sense of Humor Gendered? A Cross-National Study
Tosun, Sumeyra; Faghihi, Nafiseh; Vaid, Jyotsna. Frontiers in Psychology (2018). 2018.

Are men funnier than women? Do the produce humor that is more widely appreciated? Do ideal humor styles vary across cultures? For this study, male and female subjects from 3 different countries (U.S., Turkey and Iran) described what they considered to be an ideal sense of humor. What was considered to be an ideal sense of humor varied across cultures, but were similar across genders.

Three Decades Investigating Humor and Laughter: An Interview With Professor Rod Martin
Martin, Rod; Kuiper, Nicholas A.. Europe’s Journal of Psychology 12/3 (2016). 2016.

Interview with Rod Martin, who, until his retirement in 2016, spent his 32-year career researching the effects of humor on psychological and emotional well-being.