The belief that laughing and humor promote physical health is widespread. A growing movement among health-care workers touts "therapeutic humor" through seminars, workshops, videotapes, and Web sites. However, results of research on the purported health benefits of mirth call to mind a well-told joke with a punch line that falls flat. Or so concludes psychologist Rod A. Martin of the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.
"Despite the popularity of the idea that humor and laughter have significant health benefits, the current empirical evidence is generally weak and inconclusive," Martin says.
Martin's review of 41 scientific articles, published since 1960, that relate humor or laughter to various aspects of physical health appears in the July Psychological Bulletin.