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Laugh Your Way to Retirement

Laugh Your Way to Retirement

Photo: Happy old man 

A sense of humor helps to keep people healthy and increases their chances of reaching retirement age. But after the age of 70, the health benefits of humor decrease, researchers have found.

The study was composed of an examination of records from 53,500 individuals who were followed up after seven years. The study is based on a comprehensive database from the second Nor-Trøndelag Health Study, called HUNT 2, which is comprised of health histories and blood samples collected in 1995-1997 from more than 70,000 residents of a county in mid-Norway.

“There is reason to believe that sense of humor continues to have a positive effect on mental health and social life, even after people have become retirees, although the positive effect on life expectancy could not be shown after the age of 75. At that point, genetics and biological aging are of greater importance,” says project leader Professor Sven Svebak at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Department of Neuroscience.

Svebak and his colleagues evaluated people’s sense of humor with three questions from a test designed to measure only friendly humor. The test is not sensitive to humor that creates conflicts, is insulting or that is a variation of bullying, explains Svebak.

The questions revealed a person’s ability to understand humor and to think in a humorous way, Svebak says. He believes there are many myths and misunderstandings about humor. For example, one myth is that happy people have a better sense of humor than people who are more serious.

One possible objection to the research findings is that people who have the best sense of humor may believe that they are in good health and are therefore always in the best mood. This would mean that a good sense of humor only reflected a subjective sense of health and well being.

To ensure that their findings were genuine, the researchers studied the effect of sense of humor in two separate groups. One group was composed of people who believed they were healthy, while the other was composed of people who felt they were in poor health. But researchers found the effect of a good sense of humor was the same in the two groups.

“This gives us reason to maintain that sense of humor has a real effect on the health until people reach about 70 years old,” says Svebak.; Source: The Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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