The Impact of Self-Induced Laughter on Psychological Stress

M. I. Evelina Rutdal, Christina M. Frederick*, Sierra Nevada College

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Abstract: American stress levels rose 39 percent in 2011 (APA, 2011). Research shows laughter produces endorphins that decrease health risks (e.g., MacDonald, 2008) but has primarily considered laughter produced by comic events (e.g., Ko & Youn, 2011). The current study examined the impact of self-induced laughter on psychological stress. Undergraduates (33 males and 27 females) were randomly paired and assigned to laugh or read aloud. Following, participants completed a stress inducing activity (adapted from Försvarsmakten, 2013). During this activity, participants listened to and recorded answers from a soundtrack, sorted cards, and paired information. After stress induction, participants completed the Emotional Stress Reaction Questionnaire (ESRQ; Larsson, 2010) followed by a relaxation exercise. ESRQs were sorted by laughter or reading group and scored. General linear modeling indicated no significant difference in psychological stress between laughter and reading conditions (p = .980). No significant difference in psychological stress was found between genders (p = .767). Generally, the findings indicate self-induced laughter prior to a stressful event does not decrease psychological stress.

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