It is known that laughter can be the best medicine. But, new research suggests that laughing together with others may actually improve our health. 

Sharing a laugh with a good mate reduces the risk of cognitive or physical disability by over 30 per cent for people aged 65 and over, researchers have found. 

This is in contrast to those of the same age that laughed alone, like when they watched TV alone. 

Researchers aren’t sure what caused the results, but they suggest that laughter with friends can improve immune function, which may in turn reduce disability risk.   

Laughter is the best medicine: Sharing a joke with friends reduces the risk of disability by over 30 per cent, according to the study (stock image)

Laughter can be the best medicine. According to the study, sharing a joke or two with your friends lowers your risk of being disabled by more than 30% (stock photo).


A functional disability is defined as an impairment that makes it difficult to perform basic daily tasks, or the more complicated tasks required for independence. It can be due either cognitive or physical impairment.

In old age, disabilities can be a common problem that affects the functioning and makes it difficult to do daily tasks.

According to a 2022 study,  laughing with friends can reduce the risk of functional disability developing. 

People 65 years and older can laugh with their friends, which reduces the chance of developing functional disabilities by 30%.   

‘Laughter with friends brings health benefits such as stress release, improvement of immune functions, and a sense of social connectedness,’ said lead author Yudai Tamada at Nagoya University in Aichi, Japan. 

The study, published in Preventive Medicine, aimed to examine the link between laughter in daily life and the onset of ‘functional disability’ among people in Japan.

Bis nowThe potential benefits of laughter in everyday life are rarely explored.

To learn more, Tamada and colleagues turned to the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JGES), which was established in 2010 with the aim of examining the factors associated with the health and well-being in adults aged 65 and above. 

The researchers used data from 12,571 ‘physically and cognitively independent’ participants – 46.1 per cent male – from JGES, who all returned completed surveys on their laughter habits. 

‘We evaluated their laughter in daily life from three perspectives – the types of situations in which people laugh, the number of situations in which people laugh with others, and the persons with whom people laugh,’ the researchers say. 

Functional disability has been defined as acquired difficulty in performing basic everyday tasks or more complex tasks needed for independent living, either due to cognitive or physical impairment (stock image)

A person with functional disability is someone who has difficulty performing everyday activities or complex daily tasks. This can be due to either cognitive impairment or physical impairment. Stock image


According to a study from 2021, babies learn how to laugh before they can laugh like adults.  

Research has shown that both baby and adult chimps can chuckle during inhalation and exhalation. This is unlike adults who exhale mainly. 

This may be due to babies not having great vocal control, much like apes. They laugh when they breathe. 

As we get older, however, our laughter grows more human-like.  

In a mean follow-up of 6.3 year, 11.4 percent (1420) developed functional disabilities. 

The team discovered that participants who shared laughter with other people reduced their chance of developing functional disabilities by 30% after adjusting for possible confounders like alcohol consumption.

In the same way, functional disability was negatively associated with how many people can laugh together.

The team states that having more opportunities to have fun with other people or with friends could help reduce the likelihood of developing functional disabilities later on in life. 

It was interesting to note that those who laugh with friends are less likely to develop functional disabilities than those who share their laughter with partners, their children or their grandchildren.  

Although it is unclear how laughter improves our health, the likely mechanisms are stress relief as well as improved immunity. 

Although the team acknowledges that they cannot conclude from their research that laughter can cause functional disability, further research is required to confirm causality.  

A growing number of researches have examined the relationship between laughter and various health outcomes in recent years. 

For example, in 2016, Japanese researchers established a link between more laughter and prevalence of heart disease.

While in 2020, incidence of cardiovascular disease were found to be significantly higher among subjects with a low frequency of laughter. 

Also, 2021 saw a correlation between infrequent laughter and long-term blood pressure increase among middle-aged males. 


According to a study from 2021, both Japanese and Dutch citizens can recognize each other by the sounds of their laughter.

Researchers recorded different kinds of laughter that were produced by volunteers in Japan and the Netherlands.

They then played these clips to a total of 404 Dutch and Japanese participants, who were able to tell if the laughter belonged to the same cultural group as them.

Specifically, Dutch listeners identified the laughter correctly in 73–76 per cent of the time (depending on laughter type) and Japanese listeners 77 per cent of the time.

The two groups considered spontaneous (rather than forceful) laughter the most encouraging, with Dutch listeners rating Dutch laughter as being amongst the most positive. 

Read more: Dutch and Japanese people recognise their countrymen from laughter