Tag Archives: life satisfaction

Laughter May Not Be “The Best Medicine”

Robin Ferner

Robin Ferner

Laughter has its serious side,” according to University of Birmingham’s Robin Ferner and Jeffrey Aronson of University of Oxford, despite author Norman Cousins’ anecdotal account of managing pain of his debilitating form of arthritis by watching Marx Brothers comedies, rest, and vitamin C.

Jeffrey Aronson

Jeffrey Aronson

Although laughter can feel good and has been advocated for its health benefits, Ferner and Aronson noted that “pathological” laughter can be caused by medical disorders including:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Cerebral tumors
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis.
Norman Cousins

Norman Cousins

Similarly, they noted many medical disorders result from laughter, including

Laughter Literature ReviewThis last “side effect” they noted was “promoting brand preference,” in a study by Radboud University Nijmegen’s Madelijn Strick, Rob Holland, Rick van Baaren, and Ad van Knippenberg, who investigated “how humor breaks resistance to influence.”

Madelijn Strick

Madelijn Strick

Strick and team concluded that “resistance” causes negative brand associations, but humor in advertisements provides cognitive distraction that prevents negative brand associations and increases positive brand impressions due to positive emotional engagement.
Together, these cognitive and emotional effects promote brand preference.

Laughter’s health benefits in addition to its commercial value, have been documented for decades, and include reduced:

Rob Holland

Rob Holland

Other documented health benefits include increased:

Rick van Baaren

Rick van Baaren

Benefit have been documented across countries and cultures: Both Indians and Canadians reported greater emotional well-being when they laughed to moderate levels, according to Hunaid Hasan and Tasneem Fatema Hasan, then of Mahatma Gandhi Mission’s Medical College.

Team Hasan compared more than 350 adults from Aurangabad, India, with the same number of adults from Mississauga, Canada on demographics, typical amount of laughter, lifestyle, subjective well-being, life satisfaction, emotional well-being, and health dimensions.

Ad van Knippenberg

Ad van Knippenberg

In India, moderate levels of laughter were linked to greatest well-being and life satisfaction, with low levels and high levels showing no effect.

Canadians also greatest benefits associated with moderate laughter, but higher levels of laughter were associated with negative effects.
The Hasan and Hasan team attributed this result to Canada’s higher prevalence of bronchial asthma, which may be precipitated or exacerbated by extreme laughter.

These research findings suggest that more laughter is “not always better” and may require “titrated doses” to extract benefits while minimizing documented “risks.”

-*How do you capitalize on laughter’s benefits while minimizing “the risks”?

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Is Optimistic View of the Future Associated with Disabilities, Shorter Life Expectancy?

Frieder Lang

Frieder Lang

Frieder Lang of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and German Institute for Economic Research and his colleagues challenged the robust, replicated finding that optimism is associated with positive health outcomes.

David Weiss

David Weiss

Lang with University of Zurich’s David Weiss and Denis Gerstorf of Humboldt-University of Berlin and German Institute for Economic Research examined data from 1993 to 2003  German Socio-Economic Panel household surveys.

Denis Gerstorf

Denis Gerstorf

The team collaborated with Gert Wagner of German Institute for Economic Research and Max Planck Institute for Human Development evaluated approximately ratings from 40,000 people 18 to 96 years old, concerning their current and predicted life satisfaction in five years.

Gert Wagner

Gert Wagner

Their disruptive finding is that participants who expected highest life satisfaction in five years were more likely to experience disability and death within the following decade.

Five years after the first interviews:

  • 43 percent of participants were more satisfied with their lives than predicted,
  • 25 percent predicted accurately
  • 32 percent overestimated their life satisfaction with an optimistic bias.

Lang, Weiss, Gerstorf, and Wagner calculated that overestimating future life satisfaction was related to a 9.5 percent increase in reporting disabilities and a 10 percent increased incidence of death.

The youngest participants had the most optimistic outlook, whereas middle-aged adults made the most accurate predictions, but became more pessimistic over time.

Lauren Alloy

Lauren Alloy

Older adults’ predictions of future life satisfaction may be more accurate, albeit less optimistic, consistent with Shelley Taylor, Ellen Langer, Lauren Alloy, Lyn Abramson and others demonstration of an “optimism bias” and “depressive realism.”

Lyn Abramson

Lyn Abramson

In contrast to findings that higher income is associated with better health outcomes, Lang’s team found that stable, good health and income were associated with expecting a greater decline compared with those in poor health or with low incomes.
In contrast to other findings, higher income was related to a greater risk of disability.

Shelley Taylor

Shelley Taylor

Lang and team concluded that the outcomes of optimistic, accurate or pessimistic forecasts may depend on age, available resources, and motivation to adopt health-improving behaviors.
They acknowledged that unrealistic optimism about the future may help people feel better when they are facing inevitable negative outcomes, such as terminal disease.

Neil Weinstein

Neil Weinstein

Similarly, Neil Weinstein of Rutgers found that people may underestimate susceptibility to harm from a variety of hazards.
Close to 300 volunteers across age, gender, educational levels and occupational groups, demonstrated an optimism bias that they were less at risk than peers.

Weinstein hypothesized that optimism bias may be introduced when people extrapolate from their past experience to estimate their future vulnerability.
Therefore, volunteers future expectations may be biased  because they tended not to expect problems they had not already experienced.

He demonstrated that these personal risk judgments were not correlated with volunteers’ actual objective risk factors, suggesting that volunteers did not modify their optimistic biases based on laboratory findings, physical examination, and reported health habits.
Positive illusions persist even in the face of contradictory evidence.

Eric Kim

Eric Kim

These findings that optimistic bias may not be associated with positive health outcomes contrasts with findings from including University of Michigan’s Eric S Kim, Nansook Park, and Christopher Peterson, who found that “Dispositional Optimism” protects older adults from stroke.

George Patton

George Patton

Similarly, George Patton and colleagues at Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville, Victoria, Australia reported that optimism has a somewhat protective effect on adolescent health risks in a prospective study.

Eric Giltay

Eric Giltay

Yet another counterpoint to Lang and team’s work was offered by Eric Giltay and colleagues at Leiden University Medical Center Johanna Geleijnse, Frans Zitman, Brian Buijsse, and Daan Kromhout, who demonstrated that optimists typically report healthier habits, like less smoking and drinking alcohol, more physical activity and consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole-grain bread.

-*What do you make of these conflicting findings about optimism’s role in health outcomes?

-*How have you seen optimism relate to health outcomes: Does it seem to drive healthy behaviors and outcomes or poorer health?

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