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Laughter Therapy May Increase Life Satisfaction, Study Finds

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Catherine Song / Verywell

Key Takeaways

  • Laughter therapy can have many benefits, including decreased loneliness, pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • In multiple studies of seniors, laughter therapy has proven to be a beneficial aspect of maintaining well-being.
  • Try laughter yoga, watching something funny, or laughing with loved ones to feel the benefits for yourself.

There’s a good reason people say laughter is the best medicine. In a recent study from Rehabilitation Nursing, researchers looked at changes in life satisfaction and loneliness for older adults in nursing homes after engaging in laughter therapy. 

Each of the 31 participants received laughter therapy twice a week for six weeks, while the same number of controls only received usual care. At the end of the six weeks, those who participated in laughter therapy reported less loneliness than the control group.

“Seniors, particularly in Western cultures, find themselves in assisted living centers or nursing homes and are prone to frequent bouts of loneliness and depression that can often lead to debilitating conditions,” says Jenna Pascual, a certified laughter yoga teacher.

“Laughter helps to provide human connection and emotional bonding and is one of the most powerful tools against depression and loneliness."

What Is Laughter Therapy?

Laughter therapy is a lowkey, accessible option that you can practice in many ways.

Pascual hosts group and one-on-one sessions with seniors. She starts by guiding people through warmups to get comfortable with stimulating laughter. These may involve deep breathing exercises, clapping and light stretches paired with laughter, and call and response laughter.

She then transitions to laughter around a theme, such as Hawaiian beach party or Star Wars, pairing laughter with small movements done while seated or standing. She encourages participants to let their inner child out.

Jenna Pascual, Certified Laughter Yoga Instructor

Laughter helps to provide human connection and emotional bonding and is one of the most powerful tools against depression and loneliness.

— Jenna Pascual, Certified Laughter Yoga Instructor

Many forms of laughter therapy are free and available to all. “Laughter therapy is great for people who may not be able to engage their physical body, such as people with disabilities, physical limitations, or those who need alternatives to raise their heart rate,” says Katie Ziskind, a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Wisdom Within Counseling. Pascual also works with people in wheelchairs or hospital beds. 

Try laughter therapy for yourself by listening to or watching something comedic, performing laughter yoga therapy, or engaging in shared laughter with loved ones.

Benefits of Laughter Therapy

Rehabilitation Nursing’s study is one in a long line of research confirming laughter’s ability to boost well-being in older adults. In a 2015 study from the International Journal of Nursing and Midwifery, people aged 60 or older at a retirement center in Iran attended two 90-minute laughter therapy sessions a week for six weeks. At the end of the experiment, participants had improved general health and less anxiety and insomnia.

Along with fighting loneliness, laughter therapy brings a wide range of benefits. In a 2016 study from Nursing Open, older adults at an elderly daycare center had laughter therapy, in the form of stand-up comedy, once a week for four weeks. The participants experienced reduced systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and depression, along with increased serotonin concentrations and sociability.

Engaging in laughter therapy can also relieve pain. In a 2019 study from PLOS One of middle-aged cancer patients in Japan, participants did a laughter yoga routine and then watched a traditional Japanese verbal comedy performance. After four sessions over seven weeks, those who completed the two laughter therapy forms experienced better cognitive functioning and less pain than the control group.

Katie Ziskind, LMFT

Laughter therapy is great for people who may not be able to engage their physical body such as people with disabilities, physical limitations, or those who need alternatives to raise their heart rate.

— Katie Ziskind, LMFT

While you can try laughter therapy individually, there are advantages to doing it with others. “I want to emphasize the power of simply hearing laughter and watching others enjoying themselves laughing,” says Pascual.

“I’ve worked with seniors at assisted living centers who were not in the mood to laugh, but after hearing and watching others laugh during my sessions, they ended up participating and laughing with us.”

What This Means For You

Embrace your light-hearted and playful side with a good laugh. “As children, we laugh over 100 times a day, but as adults, studies have shown that we only laugh about eight times a day. Sometimes, you have to force yourself to laugh to get back into a playful mood and boost your mental health,” says Ziskind. 

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Effects of laughter therapy on life satisfaction and loneliness in older adults living in nursing homes in Turkey: a parallel group randomized controlled trial. Rehabilitation Nursing. 2021;46(2). doi:10.1097/rnj.0000000000000321

  2. Ghodsbin 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. International Journal of Nursing and Midwifery. January 2015.

  3. Yoshikawa Y, Ohmaki E, Kawahata H, et al. Beneficial effect of laughter therapy on physiological and psychological function in elders. Nursing Open. 2018;6(1):93-99. doi:10.1002/nop2.190

  4. Morishima T, Miyashiro I, Inoue N, et al. Effects of laughter therapy on quality of life in patients with cancer: An open-label, randomized controlled trial. PLOS ONE. 2019;14(6). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0219065