Laughing expert: “Humor is essential in times of crisis” | Right away

Laughter is healthy, they say. But is this scientifically proven? And are we still laughing enough in these uncertain times? Six questions for Dr. Sibe Doosje, who is a laughing researcher and humor specialist at utrecht university.

Is laughter healthy?

“Laughter and health research has shown that laughter has limited health benefits. When we laugh, more endorphins are produced in the brain, a substance also called pleasure or happiness hormone. There are also studies that show a link between laughter and an improved immune system. These were all small studies.”

So the evidence is not overwhelming?

“No. According to another study, laughter is less painful: subjects who laugh and/or have fun have a higher pain threshold. But in later studies it was never possible to prove the connection again. It is therefore difficult to establish a direct connection.”

Why is this so difficult?

“Endorphins are not easy to measure. In addition, it is difficult to prove the one-to-one relationship between laughter and health, because laughter is triggered by different things.”

“For example, the likelihood of laughing is many times greater when you are in company than when you are sitting alone on the couch. We know from social contacts that it promotes health. The health-promoting effect can therefore also be social.”

“The funny thing about humour is that you put reality into perspective, but you don’t deny it.”

Sibe Box

Speaking of the social aspect, are we still laughing enough while sitting alone on the couch?

“You might think not. We are sitting at home, worries, for some people the Corona crisis has a big impact on their happiness level. In a negative sense. Nevertheless, you can see that there is also a lot of laughter. This mechanism always comes into force in crises: now we use humour to combat negativity.”

“You can see it everywhere: in the newspaper, on social media and by post and smartphone, we share jokes about the crisis. In this sense, humour and laughter affect our health. Just not directly on our physical health.”

What forms of health does it have this effect on?

“Humor is part of the self-protection mechanism of man. A way to stay mentally and socially healthy. Even in the most appalling conditions – in concentration camps or in the Syrian civil war – people are joking. Humor fraternized. It connects us. That’s what we need.”

And what makes you laugh?

“Humor puts it into perspective. It brings air. It creates space between the horrors that happen around us and ourselves. It creates space to breathe.”

“The funny thing about humour is that you put reality into perspective, but you don’t deny it. In this sense, humour is the same as art: you have a feeling or an idea of society and want to express it. A joke also hits people at a significant level. Humor is essential in times of crisis.”