A good comedy good for your health

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IRVINE, Calif. – When your looking forward to a favorite comedy, its possible that just checking the television listings a few days ahead may boost the body’s ability to fight disease.

A study done at the University of California Irvine College of Medicine has found that anticipation of a mirthful event, such as a television comedy, results in behavior changes known to reduce stress hormone levels and boost the immune system’s response to disease.

Lee Berk, professor of family medicine, and his colleagues at the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that anticipating a mirthful event reduced levels of tension, anger, depression, fatigue, and confusion up to two days before the actual event.

Stress and laughter. Previous research by Berk and others has shown that chronic stress can profoundly depress the immune system, and that exposure to a one-hour humorous video reduced secretion of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol and enhanced the anti-viral and antibacterial capabilities of the body’s immune system.

“We’ve demonstrated that watching a funny video can stimulate the body’s ability to manage stress and fight disease,” Berk said. “But this is the first time we’ve seen that just anticipating such an event can change the body’s responses.”

Biology of hope. “We believe this “biology of hope” underlies recovery from many chronic disorders. Treatments that take advantage of the effects of this hope may go a long way to stimulating immune responses and hasten recovery.”

The study group included 10 men. Their moods were rated two days before, 15 minutes before, and immediately after they watched their choice of a 60-minute humorous video.

Before and after. Two days before the video, mood ratings for depression dropped 51 percent, confusion 36 percent, anger 19 percent, fatigue 15 percent, and tension was down 9 percent.

Immediately after watching the video, depression and anger were both down 98 percent, fatigue 87 percent, confusion 75 percent, and tension dropped by 61 percent.

Vigor ratings increased 12 percent in the two days before the video, and climbed to 37 percent immediately after the video.

“While vigor actually shows signs of more energy and better resistance to disease, the other mood categories are known to increase stress hormone levels and reduce the effectiveness of the immune system,” Berk said.

“Positive anticipation of humor starts the ball rolling in a sense, and moods begin to change in ways that help the body fight illness.”

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