The American Physiological Society issued the following news release:

Laughter remains good medicine

New study reports on the mind-emotion-disease model

The connection between the body, mind and spirit has been the subject of conventional scientific inquiry for some 20 years. The notion that psychosocial and societal considerations have a role in maintaining health and preventing disease became crystallized as a result of the experiences of a layman, Norman Cousins. In the 1970s, Cousins, then a writer and magazine editor of the popular Saturday Review, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. He theorized that if stress could worsen his condition, as some evidence suggested at the time, then positive emotions could improve his health. As a result, he prescribed himself, with the approval of his doctor, a regimen of humorous videos and shows like Candid Camera(c). Ultimately, the disease went into remission and Cousins wrote a paper that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and a book about his experience, Anatomy of an Illness: A Patient’s Perspective, which was published in 1979. The book became a best seller and led to the investigation of a new field, known then as whole-person care or integrative medicine and now, lifestyle medicine.

Points from the news release:

  • Beta-endorphins elevate mood state
  • Human growth hormone (HGH) helps with optimizing immunity
  • Cortisol and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) are detrimental stress hormones that negatively affect immunity if chronically released.
  • A group of 10 diabetics with hypertensoin and high cholesterol were assigned regularly to watch funny videos for 30 minutes. Over 12 months, their blood chemistry was compared to 10 matching people who were not made to laugh.
  • Adding laughter standard diabetes care may lower stress and inflammatory response and increase “good” cholesterol levels. The authors conclude that mirthful laughter may thus lower the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome.

In describing himself as a “hardcore medical clinician and scientist,” Dr. Berk says, “the best clinicians understand that there is an intrinsic physiological intervention brought about by positive emotions such as mirthful laughter, optimism and hope.

More details follow:

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