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Laughter the Best Medicine? Study Details Some Harmful Side Effects

"It remains to be seen whether sick jokes make you ill..."

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Some say laughter is the best medicine, but a recent review of studies about laughter research found that's not always the case.

laughing Photo credit: Shutterstock

In the British Medical Journal's "Christmas 2013: Food for Thought" issue, the researchers evaluated reports dating back to 1946, pulling out information about the purported benefits and harms from laughter.

Ultimately, the scientists, who write with a bit of levity themselves, found "laughter is not purely beneficial."

"The harms it can cause are immediate and dose related, the risks being highest for Homeric (uncontrollable) laughter," the authors stated.

Negative effects of laughter can included:

  • Cardiac and esophageal rupture
  • Abdominal hernia (resulting from "splitting laughter or laughing fit to burst")
  • Asthma attacks
  • Headaches
  • Jaw dislocation
  • Stress incontinence (a.k.a. wetting oneself)

Not all laughter is the result of seeing, hearing or doing something funny either. The "pathological causes of laughter" could be epilepsy, cerebral tumors, strokes, multiple sclerosis and other causes.

Fortunately, the "benefit-harm balance [of laughter] is probably favorable," the authors stated.

Benefits included, reduced anger, anxiety, depression, stress, tension and more.

"It remains to be seen whether sick jokes make you ill or jokes in bad taste cause dysgeusia, and whether our views on comedians stand up to further scrutiny," the authors stated.

Read more of the humorous study in the journal.

(H/T: Popular Science)

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