The value of laughter in Medicine

25 January 2022

"The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter." – Mark Twain

Laughter is a potent stress reliever and has both short-term and long-term benefits for our well-being. Laughter is also a valuable way to lift the spirits of the team and strengthen the bond between team members. The COVID-19 pandemic has been very stressful, put enormous pressure on healthcare and caused exhaustion and burnout in healthcare workers. Being able to laugh and enjoy humour is a useful tool which can help us get through these challenging times.

The proviso is that humour and laughter should be used at the right time and in the proper context.

The benefits of laughter

The short-term benefits of laughter include:

The longer-term benefits of laughter include:

Bringing more laughter into our lives

Each of us has an individual sense of humour which is influenced by factors such as culture and upbringing, personality and cognition. However, a sense of humour can be developed and refined. In the same way it has been shown that simulating laughter will produce similar physiological benefits to natural laughter.

If you want to increase your opportunity to laugh, try some of the following:

Dark humour and boundaries

It is important to know what isn't funny. Don't laugh at the expense of others. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad or hurtful one. Some forms of humour aren't appropriate, such as jokes which are racist or sexist or targeted at individuals.

Dark or twisted humour is an acquired taste, not everyone appreciates the taboo humour others find in disturbing subject matter. But, for people who experience stressful jobs such as healthcare workers, dark humour often serves as an important protective mechanism. For example, dark humour can be used as a way of coping with chronic job stress. In healthcare, dark humour can relate to specific medical routines, difficult cases or even death, but it should not be aggressive or hurtful to others. Consider your audience when using dark humour.

Dark humour has been found to enhance resilience during some of the most horrible events in human history. For example, during the Holocaust, victims reported using humour in ghettos, concentration, and death camps to better cope with extreme trauma and adversity. During the Holocaust, laughter was a form of rebellion against reality. Humour was the weapon of those whose lives were utterly in the hands of the executioners, those who were powerless to rebel or resist in any other way.

Dad jokes

Comedy videos you may enjoy

Resources and References:

Kay Dunkley
AMA Victoria Coordinator of Doctor Wellbeing

AMA Victoria Preferred Suppliers