Smile and laugh your way to better health
Physician's Weekly
September 12, 2023

Smile and laugh your way to better health

In 2013, the doyen of analytical and advisory companies, Gallup, surveyed 1.4 million people across 166 counties. This survey revealed that around the age of 23, there is a drastic fall in the frequency of our smiles and laughter.

The average four-year-old smiles and or laughs about 300-400 times a day, juxtaposed to the average 25-year-old who only smiles or laughs approximately 20 times during this period. It has not been unequivocally settled as to what is the primary reason why we observe this marked decrease in smiles and laughter in early adulthood. However, behavioural scientists at Stanford University think that entering the workforce may be the primary reason for such a phenomenon.

I postulate that around the age of 23, for many, life’s emerging and mounting socioeconomic burdens provide more than enough reasons, if we are not vigilant, to erase most of our smiles and laughter.

The dimming of our sense of humour as an adult does not auger well for our health.

Many well-designed studies have uncovered the health benefits of smiles and laughter.

Immediately below are some:

Appearing in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine were the results from a large study that showed that women who laughed a lot outlived women who were less inclined to laugh. It also revealed that men with a good sense of humour were less prone to infections in general.

Suggesting that having a jovial predisposition was tantamount to a shot in the arm for our immune systems.

A Norwegian study with over 50,000 participants spanning 15 years showed that the participants with the best health outcomes were those who had a more vibrant sense of humour.

A 2010 study conducted by Wayne State University found that the intensity of a smile, as observed and determined by way of photographs, was directly proportional to longevity. In other words, those with the most “intense” smile in their photograph were likely to outlive those with less earnest smiles.
The University of Maryland released a landmark study in 2005 that linked laughter to the rejuvenation of the endothelial lining of our arterial blood vessels.

The biopsychosocial benefits of frequent smiles and laughter:

  • You release feel-good hormones – endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.
  • Laughter enhances the intake of a large volume of air.
  • Reduces blood pressure.
  • Reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular events (heart attacks and strokes).
  • Strengthens the immune system and reduces the chances and severity of infections.
  • Reduces anxiety and depression and contributes to a positive frame of mind.
  •  Reduces the intensity of pain.
  • Reduces blood levels of cortisol thereby reducing the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Delays the onset and progression of dementia.
  • Laughter helps the body to release more of its natural killer cells which in turn can destroy cancer cells.
  • Your personal and professional relationships tend to be stronger and more enduring.
  • Improves your productivity in the work environment.
  • You are less likely to be impacted by stress.
  • Relieves muscle tension.
  • Studies have shown that having a humorous trait, independent of other health factors, can add an average of 5 years to your life.
  • You are more likely to be considered approachable.

How to improve our sense of humour

Our sense of humour is linked primarily to our genetics and socialization. However, even if our childhood was humourless, it does not mean that we cannot systematically cultivate a sense of humour in adulthood. Below are some suggestions:

  •  Look in the mirror and smile. Don’t do this if around others who are not aware of this idiosyncrasy. If you make such a mistake, you may end up in a mental asylum.

Research has shown that even a fake smile can induce a sense of happiness.

  • Identify sources of humour. These can include looking at stand-up comedians on YouTube. Watch funny movies or TV series. Seek out some jokes or hilarious memes on the internet.
  • Engage with family, friends, and even strangers. Especially those with a genuine sense of humour.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself. Life is too short not to find time to laugh at yourself. On any given day, there are more than enough opportunities, especially if you are on the lookout for such.
  • Reflect on funny memories, moments, and incidents in your life.
  • Master the art of telling at least one hilarious joke.
  • Share funny stories with others.

In summary, smiling and laughing

  • Cost us nothing
  • Improves our mood
  • Makes us more endearing to others
  • There are no known harmful side effects
  • There are numerous health benefits (as outlined above)
  • Improves our productivity
  • Makes us more attractive
  • Is contagious. Others around are more likely to smile and laugh.

I wish you a week ahead that is filled with loads of reasons to smile and laugh, and even if suchreasons aren’t spontaneously forthcoming, create your own. Salud!


Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, c/o Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale,,, 1(784)570-9300 (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)

Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.