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The Laughter Epidemic

On January 30th, 1962, in the village of Kashasha, in what is now Tanzania, an epidemic struck the students of a boarding school for girls. So many of the girls were affected that the school was forced to close down.  Then the epidemic spread, infecting local communities until all in all, over 1000 people were affected and fourteen schools were forced to close down over the next six months. What was it that was so contagious?  Not a virus or bacteria, but the uncontrollable act of laughter.  Three girls started laughing, and then couldn’t stop.  Hearing the laughter, other students began laughing in response.  The resulting mass hysteria of emotions will forever be remembered as the 1962 Laughter Epidemic of Tanzania. 


Laughter is a social response which seems to have a plethora of effects on our health and wellness.  For one, laughter sets a positive groundwork for relationships and builds a connection between people.  One researcher looking into laughter and relationships found that among couples, the laughter of the female was an absolutely critical aspect to a healthy relationship.  Lesson for men, the best way to keep your lady happy is to keep her laughing.

In addition to the impact on our social lives, laughter may also hold potential health benefits.  Preliminary research shows that laughter may help improve your blood flow, increase your immune response, manage your blood sugar and improve your sleep.  Because of the unique nature of laughter, researchers are unable to eliminate the possibility that it is the situation or circumstances which leads to these health benefits, and not the laughter itself.  At the end of the day though, whether it’s the situations that bring about laughter, or the laughter itself, the health benefits seem to remain the same.

Just another reason to brush up on your knock-knock jokes, or pick the romantic comedy instead of the serious drama when you go out to the movies next time.


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