Could humor be the key to a healthier society?

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Laughter may be the best medicine for a healthy life, according to research published today.

Posted online at Australian and New Zealand Public Health JournalA systematic review of humor-based strategies to address public health priorities found that humor interventions could be effective in influencing people’s behavior and intentions around their health.

Unusually, the research was conducted by Scottish comedian and female health physiotherapist Elaine Miller, a fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, in collaboration with a team of researchers from Monash University led by Monash Warwick Alliance professor Helen Skouteris.

“I’ve seen comedy used to address the most taboo subjects on stage,” Miller said. “My field is incontinence, which is often very embarrassing for people to talk about, but because laughter is universal, it has the potential to reach people in general.

“This robust and systematic review looked at 13 studies over the past 10 years in which humor had been used to communicate serious messages covering topics such as mental health, testicular and breast cancer self-exam, safe sex, skin cancer, and binge drinking. of alcohol.

“What we found is that humor can act as an effective vehicle for conveying messages that people may find fear-inducing or threatening. Humor, if used well, can be an emotional buffer that breaks down some of that fear so that underlying messages reach the audience and influence their behaviors and attitudes. “

The study highlighted a number of factors that could affect the effectiveness of a humor-based message, including the level and type of perceived fear or threat, the “taboo” nature of the topic, and a person’s taste for humor.

“It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach. A misjudged joke can ruin the message of a health campaign, a therapeutic relationship, a concert, or all three at once. Humor is very complex and more research to examine humor and the promotion of public health is certainly justified, “said Ms. Miller.

“What this study also highlighted is that many of us who work in health promotion can learn from commercial advertising and public safety campaigns, such as road and rail safety, where humor has been shown to attract attention, promotes memory and positive aspects, attitudes towards an advertisement, brand or message “.

Professor Skouteris, Director of the Center of Excellence in Health Research in Preconception and Pregnancy (CRE HiPP) and Head of the Monash University Health and Social Care Unit within the Faculty of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said that the The study was an “encouraging first step” toward implementing humor-based messages more broadly in public health.

“Humor is nice. People are drawn to it, they want to see it and be a part of it,” said Professor Skouteris.

“Importantly, this review highlighted that humor can be used as a tool to encourage conversation and sharing. It is not just a way to send a message, it actually encourages people to talk about it and be open. with others, which we believe may lead to influence societal perceptions and behaviors around important public health prevention messages. “

Professor Skouteris said more research is needed to examine how humor works specifically in public health settings.

“Most of the research to date has focused on humor and health outcomes in clinical settings, so it is important that we look more broadly at how humor can influence behavioral intentions and health outcomes. public outside of those acute health settings, “he said.

Ms. Miller added that she also hoped to bring some of this additional research to the comedy circuit.

“I am interested in subclinical women, those who are incontinent but not seeking help. I am planning to tour my show and survey the audience to establish the prevalence of pelvic health conditions and whether a comedy show can encourage help. -Searching, “he said.

Laughter is not always the best medicine for work stress

More information:
Elaine Miller et al, A Systematic Review of Humor-Based Strategies to Address Public Health Priorities, Australian and New Zealand Public Health Journal (2021). DOI: 10.1111 / 1753-6405.13142

Provided by Monash University

Citation: Could humor be the key to a healthier society? (2021, August 20) Retrieved on August 21, 2021 from

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or investigation, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.

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