Over the holidays, the British Medical Journal publishes a special edition, in which they “are pleased to consider all kinds of articles.” All kinds, indeed. In this “narrative synthesis,” the researchers attempt to answer the question “is laughter really the best medicine?” The short answer: not really, apparently. The study includes many interesting ways in which laughter is beneficial, as well as an odd list of harmful consequences.
Researchers have been looking into this funny business for years, learning about laughing through the hard times, the evolutionary origins of laughter, how it affects pain thresholds, among other topics. But for this study, the researchers analyzed studies from two different journals dating back to 1946, controlling for scientists’ names that include “laugh” (Laughton, or McLaughlin, for example.) They also removed irrelevant studies, including one paper called “Another exciting use for the cantaloupe.”
Some of the consequences of laughing included a dislocated jaw, incontinence, headaches, cardiac rupture, and in most serious circumstances, death. But that’s not to say laughing is all bad—laughing can lead to improved lung functioning, higher energy, and even better odds of conception. The full study is really worth a read (warning: contains clowns)—just try not to giggle too much.