Laughing with friends for around 15 minutes boosts a person’s pain threshold by an average of 10%, an international study has found.
A research team led by evolutionary anthropologists from Oxford University in the UK has concluded that the endorphins released by a big belly laugh in a social setting can make pain more bearable.
Noting that previous studies had found laughter was more likely when in a group than when alone, the researchers conducted experiments where groups of participants watched comedy clips, including Mr Bean, or live comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A control group was shown factual videos like golf tournament footage.
After viewing, the participants were given pain tolerance tests such as seeing how long they could withstand cold, a tight blood pressure cuff or do strenuous exercise.
“We tested the hypothesis that social laughter elevates pain thresholds both in the laboratory and under naturalistic conditions. In both cases, the results confirmed that when laughter is elicited, pain thresholds are significantly increased, whereas when subjects watched something that does not naturally elicit laughter, pain thresholds do not change (and are often lower),” the researchers wrote in their paper, which was titled “Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold” and published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“These results can best be explained by the action of endorphins released by laughter.”