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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Ford, Thomas E.

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Health among humorists: Susceptibility to contagious diseases among improvisational artists

Gil Greengross
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Psychology, Aberystwyth University, Penbryn 5, Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth SY23 3UX, UK
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/ Rod A. Martin
Published Online: 2018-05-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0054


There is a widely held belief that humor contributes to better health, but the research on this topic yields mixed results. To assess the relationship between humor and health, we compared the susceptibility to various infectious diseases of 511 comedy performers (amateur improvisational artists) and a control group of 795 non-performers that were matched to the comedy performers sample in age and sex. Subjects reported the number of episodes and the total days they had had various infectious diseases. Contrary to the prevailing sentiment that humor boosts health, results showed that the comedy performer group reported more frequent contagious diseases and more days having these infections diseases, compared to the control group. Improv artists had significantly more infections and reported more days infected than the control group on respiratory infections, head colds, stomach or intestinal flu, skin infections, and autoimmune diseases. The control group had significantly more bladder infections with non-significant difference on days infected. Results held after controlling for BMI, age, number of antibiotics used and neuroticism. We found no evidence that humor positively contributes to health, and a career in a humor-related profession may be detrimental to one’s health. Our research highlights the complex relationship between humor and health outcomes.

Keywords: humor; physical health; improvisational artists; stand-up comedy; infectious diseases


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-05-08

Citation Information: HUMOR, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0054.

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