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Laughter Helps Alleviate Stress, Researcher Says

February 13, 1988

OBERLIN, Ohio (AP) _ People who are able to laugh it up under pressure seem to have greater resistance to stress-related ailments than those who don’t, according to a psychologist studying the link between humor and health.

″This study points to the conclusion that humor does confer some health benefit when you’re under stress,″ Albert Porterfield, assistant professor of psychology at Oberlin College, said Friday.

Porterfield based his observations on preliminary results of a study of 140 Oberlin students who were tested to determine their sense of humor, then completed questionnaires on incidence of such stress-related maladies as headaches, rashes, and digestive problems.

″There is a long-recognized relationship between the kinds of stress one encounters throughout life and depression and physical illness,″ Porterfield said. ″What isn’t well-understood are the factors that determine how strongly day-to-day stress and well-being are linked in people.″

For students whose sense of humor was ranked in the top 50 percent, there was no significant link between their stress levels and how they felt physically, he said. For those on the lower half of the humor scale, there was a positive connection between stress and illness.

The results were similar when the same students were tested a year later, Porterfield said. The connection between humor and resistance to stress- related illnesses seems to show a marked increase for those above the 60th percentile in the humor rating, he said.

The humor rankings were based on two tests: one presents subjects with hypothetical situations and asks them how they would respond; the other deals with subjects’ use of humor in times of stress.

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