Laughter, even giggles, may have a protective effect against stress

A newly published observational study has found a link between laughing on a regular basis and an increased ability to deal with stressful situations. Though that aspect of the study wasn't terribly surprising, researchers also found another element that they describe as unexpected — the intensity of the laughter didn't have any impact on the benefits from it.

Life is stressful and stress is damaging to the body and mind, particularly long-term chronic stress. Part of reducing the health impact of stress is being better equipped to handle it before it comes — there are many coping methods and strategies, but it seems that good old fashioned laughter may also be an effective tool.

The research comes from the University of Basel and was recently published in PLOS ONE. The team used a mobile app to repeatedly query participants during the day, asking them to detail how many times they had laughed thus far, the intensity of the laughter, why they were laughing, and any stress or symptoms of stress they had experienced since the last time they'd answered the questions.

The participants had an average age of around 22 years old and they answered questions over the course of two weeks at irregular, unanticipated intervals. The findings are two-fold, with researchers noting that the people who laughed more were also more likely to experience less severe stress symptoms.

As well, and in what the researchers called unexpected, the study also found that laughter's impact on stress symptoms wasn't influenced by the intensity of the laughter — small, weak laughter was correlated with lesser symptoms just the same as medium and strong laughter, though this may be due to the participants' inability to reliably judge the intensity of their own experiences.