Comedy is the best medicine

LUCY RICKARD
Last updated 13:32 14/09/2011
laughing
HA HA: A good chuckle is good for you, according to new research.

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It's something we've all heard before but now researchers have proven laughter really is the best medicine.

Research released today found by watching just 15 minutes of comedy with other people increased a person's pain threshold by an average of 10 per cent.

A decade-long study led by Oxford University found that a full-belly laugh - as opposed to a polite titter - left a person exhausted and triggered the release of endorphins, which managed pain and promoted feelings of well-being.

But it's important not to fake the laughter, with the study making an important distinction between the polite giggle.

Television shows like Mr Bean and Friends were viewed by participants and contrasted with some less-than-humorous clips including factual programs and instructional golf shows.

Ice-cold sleeves, a tight blood pressure cuff and a strenuous workout of the quadriceps were used as a measure of the pain threshold in participants.

To further demonstrate the effect outside a controlled environment participants watched live performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and also staged dramas.

The live performance results reflected those carried out in a laboratory.

Lead author Professor Robin Dunbar, Head of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford said he believed the bonding effects of the endorphin rush explained why laughter played such an important role in our social lives.

"Very little research has been done into why we laugh and what role it plays in society," he said.

"Using microphones, we were able to record each of the participants and found that in a comedy show, they laughed for about a third of the time and their pain tolerance rose as a consequence."

Professor Dunbar's paper, Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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