After “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” was released in late fall of 2014, a common question that my older patients would ask me is whether laughter can also be of benefit to them. That is because most research on laughter, including ours, focused on young and healthy men and women. However, two recently published papers provide new insights into how laughter may be especially useful in aging men and women. The first study was conducted in Iran and randomized men and women 60 years and older to laughter (or no) therapy twice a week for 90 minutes. The participants completed questionnaires before and after the 6-week study period. Those assigned to laughter therapy demonstrated improvement in sleep quality and anxiety levels (1). The second study examined short-term memory in men and women older than 60 who were tested before and after watching a 20-minute comedy video. Once again, the older adults assigned to the laughter group showed improvement in learning ability and memory recall (2). It’s been said that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Perhaps we should now revise that expression to “you can teach an old dog new tricks if you can get them to laugh beforehand”.
1. Ghodsbin F, Sharif Ahmadi Z, Jahanbin I, Sharif F.
The effects of laughter therapy on general health of elderly people referring to
jahandidegan community center in shiraz, iran, 2014: a randomized controlled
trial. Int J Community Based Nurs Midwifery. 2015 Jan;3(1):31-8.
2. Bains GS, Berk LS, Lohman E, Daher N, Petrofsky J, Schwab E, Deshpande
P. Humors Effect on Short-term Memory in Healthy and Diabetic Older Adults.
Altern Ther Health Med. 2015 May;21(3):16-25.