Laugh all the way to the bank … and save money on a gym subscription
In this case researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have confirmed what the editors at Readers Digest have claimed for years – that ‘laughter really is the best medicine.
They tested the reactions of the blood vessels of 20 healthy volunteers when they were shown a funny film and when they were shown a mentally stressful film. The researchers then used ultrasound to look at the function of the blood-vessel lining, called the endothelium. Endothelium plays a major role in regulating how relaxed, or open, blood vessels are. Damage to the endothelium is also linked to arterial disease.
When the volunteers were shown the funny film, 19 out of the 20 showed beneficial relaxation of the blood vessels and their blood-flow increased by 22 per cent. But when they watched the mentally stressful film, 14 of the 20 study subjects showed a reduction in blood-flow by an average of 35 per cent. Not only that but these changes in their blood-vessel reactivity persisted for up to 45 minutes afterwards.
What is more the changes the team saw with laughter were at least as great as those measured when people exercise. The research does not, however, reveal why the endothelium works less well to keep blood vessels open during mental stress, or why laughter is beneficial, but it is hypothesised that it might be because stress in some way inhibits the production of the blood-vessel relaxant nitric oxide, which is secreted by the endothelium. The results of the study also agree with previous work published by the same roup in 2000, which showed that people with heart disease tended to respond with less humour to everyday situations than healthy individuals of the same age.
So there you are Laughter really IS the best medicine.