Humor: The best medicine

This Week In The HSI Healthier Talk Community

Only in America do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

That comment leads off a thread titled “Only in America,” posted by a member named Jim13 in the HSI Healthier Talk community. The thread appears in the “Humor: The Best Medicine” forum, and a member named Rosie has provided some authentic evidence about the health benefits of humor in her own thread titled “Laughter’s link to health.”

Rosie starts off by inserting a Washington Post article headlined: “Ho-ho-ho for Health.” The article details a University of Maryland School of Medicine study. Michael Miller, who headed the research team, points out that evidence has demonstrated how negative emotions and stress can be harmful to health, but few studies have examined the other side of the coin: Can positive emotions reduce the risk of poor health?

So Miller and his colleagues devised a trial to assess what effect humor might have on vasodilatation, (the ability of blood vessels to expand when necessary).

Twenty healthy men and women were asked to watch clips from two different types of movies. One movie was a drama that featured intense WWII battle scenes, while the other film featured comic situations. Blood vessel function was measured with ultrasound before and after the clips were shown.

On average, blood flow decreased by about 35 percent in the drama group. In the comedy group blood flow INCREASED more than 20 percent. Miller described the difference as “dramatic,” and suggested that endorphins (neurotransmitters that produce sensations of well-being) released during laughter may prompt vasodilation.

Rosie follows the article with a personal story of her elderly aunt D. who maintained a good sense of humor, even after being diagnosed with emphysema and, sometime later, lung cancer. During a hospital stay she took a sudden turn for the worst and started to speak openly of dying. But Rosie’s cousin wouldn’t accept this negativity, which he believed was brought on by the grim attitude of the doctors. So he decided to lighten the mood and began kidding around.

Rosie writes: “He had her laughing so hard she was practically crying. There the two of them sat, joking, laughing, and carrying on like it was a party. Not at all a scene you would expect after the initial grim scenario. Finally, after a while, she looked him in the eye and said, I’m not staying, get me out of here! You go and tell them I refuse to stay here another day, I’m going home.

“They released her, and she went home feeling good, and very upbeat. All the death talk was gone, and she was just her same old self. She lived another three years, with little discomfort or problems, aside from the emphysema. I think if my cousin had not done what he did, she would have continued to accept the grim prognosis, and she would have let go and died right then and there. But he truly turned her around. It may not have had any helpful effects on the cancer, but it surely prevented an earlier than necessary demise.”

A member named Naturalway responds to Rosie’s postings with these comments: “I totally believe in laughter’s benefitsit will redirect your mind from negative thoughts.” And she includes this quote from Dr. Jamie Sanz-Ortiz, a specialist in cancer and preventive medicine: “(Humor) facilitates communication, strengthens immunity, alleviates pain, lessens anxiety, relaxes emotional and muscular tension and inspires creativity and hope”

At the beginning of the thread, Rosie says she hopes to “start a conversation about personal experiences with laughter improving ones health.” To join in with this conversation, just go to, choose “Forum,” add your own comments, and enjoy a good laugh while you’re there.

Other topics on the “Humor: The Best Medicine” forum in the Healthier Talk community include:

  • Hospitals
  • The colonoscopy experience
  • Brief history of medicine
  • Pharmaceutical news
  • Brain cramps
  • Welcome to the town of Allopath