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A 3-item humor measure derived from the Sense of Humor Questionnaire (SHQ: Svebak 1996) was included in a health survey of all adult residents of a Norwegian county (study n = 65,333). Health-related measures included subjective health satisfaction, prevalence of common bodily complaints (e.g., nausea, diarrhea, pounding heart, dyspnea, musculuskeletal pain), blood pressure, and body mass index. SHQ mean scores were slightly skewed toward high values. Overall, humor scores (metamessage sensitivity, liking of humor, laughter expressiveness) declined with age (r = -.29) and were slightly higher in males than females among younger age cohorts. Sense of humor was positively correlated with overall health satisfaction (r = .21) and negatively related to systolic blood pressure (r = -.14). However, after controlling for age, only the partial correlation with subjective health satisfaction remained greater than .10 (partial r = .12). Due to the large number of participants, coefficients were statistically significant despite very low explained variance. Overall, these data, comprising the largest study of humor and health ever undertaken, provide very little evidence for a direct relationship between sense of humor and physical health parameters.
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The prevalence of sense of humor
in a large, unselected county population
in Norway: Relations with age, sex,
and some health indicators
SVEN SVEBAK, ROD A. MARTIN, and JOSTEIN HOLMEN
Abstract
A 3-item humor measure derived from the Sense of Humor Questionnaire
(SHQ: Svebak 1996) was included in a health survey of all adult residents
of a Norwegian county (study n ¼ 65,333). Health-related measures in-
cluded subjective health satisfaction, prevalence of common bodily complaints
(e.g., nausea, diarrhea, pounding heart, dyspnea, musculuskeletal pain),
blood pressure, and body mass index. SHQ mean scores were slightly
skewed toward high values. Overall, humor scores (metamessage sensitiv-
ity, liking of humor, laughter expressiveness) declined with age (r ¼.29)
and were slightly higher in males than females among younger age cohorts.
Sense of humor was positively correlated with overall health satisfaction
(r ¼ .21) and negatively related to systolic blood pressure (r ¼.14).
However, after controlling for age, only the partial correlation with subjec-
tive health satisfaction remained greater than .10 (partial r ¼ .12). Due to
the large number of participants, coe‰cients were statistically significant
despite very low explained variance. Overall, these data, comprising the
largest study of humor and health ever undertaken, provide very little evi-
dence for a direct relationship between sense of humor and physical health
parameters.
Keywords: Age; sex; blood pressure; health; sense of humor.
Introduction
The purpose of this study was to provide information about the distribu-
tion of sense of humor in a large, unselected adult county population and
Humor 171/2 (2004), 121134 09331719/04/00170121
6 Walter de Gruyter
to examine relationships between sense of humor and age, sex, subjective
health, blood pressure, obesity, and some common bodily complaints.
More specifically, the study addressed the following questions: How is
sense of humor related to sex and age? Are subjective and objective hea lth
indicators correlated with sense of humor, and does age influence these
correlations?
It has been assumed for many generations that people with a greater
sense of humor tend to enjoy greater physical health. Several potential
mechanisms have been proposed for beneficial e¤ects of humor on health.
For example, there have been numerous claims that vigorous laughter
confers many physiological benefits, including exercising and relaxing
muscles, improving respiration and blood circulation, reducing blood
pressure, stimulati ng production of pain-killing endorphins, enhancing
immunity, and decreasing production of stress-related hormones. Since
individuals with a greater sense of humor pre sumably laugh more fre-
quently than others, they may also be more likely to experience these hy-
pothesized beneficial physiological e¤ects of laughter. It should be noted,
though, that there are many di¤erent causes of laughter, including even
some kinds of brain damage (Forabosco 1998 ). Thus, mirthfulness by
itself is not an adequate indicator of sense of humor.
Other potential mechanisms for health benefits of sense of humor relate
more to the cognitive, a¤ective, and social aspects of humor. For exam-
ple, a humorous and cheerful outlook on life may allow one to cope more
e¤ectively with stressful life experiences and thereby reduce the well-
known deleterious e¤ects of stress on physical health. Similarly, indivi-
duals with a greater sense of humor may be more soc ially skilled and
better able to negotiate interpersonal conflicts, resulting in more satisfying
and intimate relationships with others. Consequently, they may experi-
ence the well-known health benefits that result from higher levels of social
support (Martin 2001).
All of these hypotheses would suggest that individual s with a greater
sense of humor should have better physical health, as indicated by
greater health satisfaction, fewer symptoms of ill health, such as chronic
pain and cardiovascular problems, and better physiological functioning
as indicated, for example, by lower blood pressure. However, a direct and
simple association between sense of humor (as measured by self-report
questionnaires) and good health has been di‰cult to establish so far (see
Martin 2001; Svebak and Martin 1997 for reviews). Some studies have
reported negative correlations between sense of humor and illness symp-
122 S. Svebak et al.
toms (e.g., Carroll and Shmidt 1992; Ruch et al. 1996; Simon 1990), but
others have not found any relationship between sense of humor and
overall health (e.g., Anderson and Arnoult 1989; Labott and Martin
1990; Porterfield 1987). Similarly, some small studies have found signifi-
cant positive correlations between sense of humor scores and salivary
immunoglobulin-A (S-IgA: e.g., Dillon et al. 1985; Dillon and Totten
1989), whereas other larger studies have failed to find any correlation be-
tween these variables (e.g., Lefcourt et al. 1990). Martin and Dobbin
(1988) found evidence for a moderating role of sense of humor in stress-
related immune system suppression. With regard to humor and pain,
Svebak and associates (2000) found a negative correlation between sense
of humor and pain associated with gallbladder stones. Alth ough there is
considerable experimental evidence of increased pain tolerance following
exposure to humorous videotapes (e.g., Weisenberg et al. 1998; Weisen-
berg et al. 1995), evidence of correlations between sense of humor mea-
sures and tolerance of experimentally-induced pain has been mixed (e.g.,
Zillman et al. 1993; Nevo et al. 1993). Finally, Clark et al. (2001) re-
ported on a study of 300 consecutive patients in a cardiological setting
and found some promising evidence of an inverse relation betwee n sense
of humor and prevalence of coronary heart disease.
Overall, then, the research evidence for correlations between sense of
humor and various indicators of physical health has been very inconclu-
sive. However, one potential problem with much of the past research is
that most of the studies have involved fairly small samples drawn from
highly selected populations, with a bias to ward university student sam-
ples. Associations of sense of humor with health indicators among young
adults may be weak because health problems are not frequent in this age
group. Variance in health measures is even more reduced in university
samples, since those with severe health problems are less likely to con-
tinue in school. Furthermore, university students generally may not have
had much experience with a broad range of life stressors, thus reducing
the likelihood of finding potential stress-bu¤ering e¤ects of humor on
health. Study of a much larger and more diverse sample of adults of all
ages drawn from the general population, with a broader range of poten-
tial health problems and life stressors, might allow for a more robust test
of possible relationships bet ween sense of humor and various indicators
of physical health and illness.
The present study represented a unique opportunity to investigate sense
of humor in a large-scale epidemiological study that took place in Nor-
Humor and health in a Norwegian county 123
way in 1995 to 1997. The entire population aged 20 and above in the
county of Nord-Trøndelag, Norway (N ¼ 92,808), was invited to take
part in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT). Thus, the present
report is based upon data from one of the largest population health
surveys in the world. Participants in the study completed a self-report
survey concerning the frequency and severity of a wide range of health
problems, including nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, cardio-respiratory
problems, chronic pain, and overall health satisfaction. In addition, the
participants underwent medical screening at an ambulatory medical cen-
ter where they were assessed for systolic and diastolic blood pressure,
height, and weight. The survey also included a 3-item self-report test of
sense of humor derived from the revised Sense of Humor Questionnaire
(Svebak 1996).
These data allowed us to examine the potential relat ionship between
sense of humor and these various health indicators in an entire adult
population of a county, thus avoiding the potential limitations of small
samples of selected populations found in past research. If there is a sim-
ple, direct relationship between sense of humor (as measured by this self-
report scale) and these various aspects of physical health, it should be
found in this study. In addition to the humor-health relationship, these
data also allowed us to examine the general prevalence and distribution
of sense of humor in this population and its relationship with age and sex.
Since we expected that health problems would increase in frequency and
severity with older age, it was also important to control for age in exam-
ining correlations between humor and health.
Method
Subjects
In 1995 to 1997 the entire population aged 20 and above in the county of
Nord-Trøndelag, Norway (N ¼ 92,808), was invited to take part in the
HUNT Study. The overall participation rate of the population in the
survey phase of the study was 70.4 percent (males ¼ 66.7 percent;
females: 75.5 percent). Thus, a total of 65,333 inhabitants took part. Due
to missing data on some variables, sample sizes vary in the analyses re-
ported here.
124 S. Svebak et al.
Survey measures and procedure
A questionnaire was mailed to every inhabitant aged 20 and above with
the invitation to take part in the survey. Those who agreed to participate
in the study completed the questionnaire and brought it to the ambu la-
tory medical center at the time given for a medical screening.
Assessment of sense of humor. All participants completed an extensive
set of survey measures addressing a range of health issues. Given the va-
riety of questions on the survey and the need for brevity to ensure a high
level of participation, we were able to include only a brief measure of
sense of humor. Consequently, humor was assessed using three items
from the three-dimensional Sense of Humor Questionnaire (SHQ: Svebak
1996). In particular, the item with the highest factor loading was selected
from each dimension. They were as follows: (1) ‘‘Do you easily recognize
a mark of humorous intent?’’ (meta-message humor sensitivity: MM); (2)
‘‘Persons who are always out to be funny are really irresponsible types
not to be relied upon’’ (social liking of humor: SL); and (3) ‘‘Do you
consider yourse lf to be a mirthful person?’’ (laughter expressiveness: LE).
Participants responded to each item using 4-point scales (labeled for the
three items respectively: very sluggishly very easily; yes indeed not at
all; not at all yes indeed). Data were analyzed using each of the three
items separately, as well as summing them to make an overall index of
sense of humor (SHQ). The full version of the SHQ has been shown to
have acceptable reliability and validity and has been used extensively in
past research on humor and well-being (see Lefcourt and Martin 1986;
Svebak 1996; Svebak and Martin 1997).
Assessment of bodily complaints. Overall satisfaction with one’s own
health was rated using a 4-point scale (1 ¼ poor; 4 ¼ very good). To
assess the prevalence of a number of common bodily complaints, partic-
ipants were asked, ‘‘To what extent are you or have you been troubled
with these complaints over the last twelve months?’’ This question was
followed by a list of complaints, including nausea, acid heartbu rn, diar-
rhea, constipation, pounding heart, and dyspnea. Participants responded
to each complaint using a 3-point scale (1 ¼ not at all troubled, 2 ¼
somewhat tro ubled, 3 ¼ much troubled). In addition, musculoskeletal
pain was assessed separately for various parts of the body, including the
neck, shoulders, low back, and extremities, using a 2-point rating scale
Humor and health in a Norwegian county 125
(0 ¼ no, 1 ¼ yes). Five indexes were computed for bodily complaints: (1)
dyspepsia (nausea, heartburn), (2) indigestion (diarrhea, constipation), (3)
cardio-respiratory (pounding heart, dyspnea), (4) neck and shoulder pain,
and (5) pain in lower back and extremities.
Assessment of blood pressure, height, and weight. Blood pressure was
measured by specially trained nurses or technicians using a Dinam ap
845XT (Critikon) based on oscillometry. Cu¤ size was adjusted after
measuring the arm circumference. The Dinamap was started after the
participant had been seated for two minutes with the cu¤ on the arm and
the arm resting on a table. Blood pressure was measured three times at
one-minute intervals: Blood pressure reported in this paper is the mean of
the seco nd and third systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressures,
respectively (for details, see Lund-Larsen 1997). Measurements were also
taken of participants’ height and weight. Body mass index (BMI) was
computed by taking body weight in kilograms divided by the squared
body height in meters.
Results
To examine relationships betwee n age and humor, the sample was div-
ided into age cohorts in ten-year intervals and means and standard devi-
ations for the total SHQ, and three humor items were computed for each
group. Di¤erences across groups were computed using one-way analysis
of variance. As shown in Table 1, the mean scores for total sense of
humor on average declined across the age cohorts from highest score in
the 20s to lowest score among those aged 70 and above (F ¼ 952:7,
p <:0004). As shown in Table 2, the simple correlation between age and
total SHQ was .29. The scores were slightly skewed toward the high end
of the scale (around 9 on a scale from 3 to 12). This trend across age co-
horts was consistent across the th ree SHQ items with the strongest e¤ect
being found for laughter expressiveness (F ¼ 630:1, p <:0004; r ¼:23),
followed by social liking of humor (F ¼ 614: 6, p <:0004; r ¼:22) and
meta-message sensitivity ( F ¼ 170:4, p <:0004; r ¼:13).
To examine sex di¤erences and interactions between age and sex, two-
way analyses of variance (sex by age) were computed (see Table 1 for
means and standard deviations). These analyses revealed that total SHQ
scores were slightly higher in males than females (F ¼ 12:8, p <:0004).
126 S. Svebak et al.
This small main e¤ect for sex was qualified, however, by a weak interac-
tion between age and sex (F ¼ 9:96, p <:0004), with slightly higher SHQ
total scores occurring for males than females only among the younger
adults. The sex di¤erence was strongest for scores on meta-message sen-
sitivity (F ¼ 175:9, p <:0004), whereas a relativel y weak sex di¤er ence
was seen in the laughter expressiveness dimension (F ¼ 8:2, p <:004),
and a non-significant e¤ect of sex was found in scores on social liking of
humor (F ¼ 0:14, ns). Sex also interacted with age on the single items to
yield the highest e¤ect for meta-message sensitivity (F ¼ 18:6, p <:0004),
due to the fact that mean scores dropped more among males than among
females over the age cohorts. The corresponding F-scores for the age by
sex interaction were 6.3 ( p <:003) for social liking of humor and 9.0
( p <:0004) for laughter expressiveness.
Pearson correlations were computed to examine relationships between
sense of humor and the various indicators of physical health. Since cor-
relations as weak as .01 are statistically significant with this sample size,
we focused on abs olute magnitudes of the coe‰cients rather than signifi-
Table 1. Means (and standard deviations) of sense of humor total and item scores by age
cohort and sex (male n ¼ 26850; female n ¼ 28550; total n ¼ 55400)
SHQ-items Age-cohorts
2029 3039 4049 5059 6069 70þ
SHQ total:
Total sample 9.85 (1.27) 9.70 (1.27) 9.47 (1.28) 9.23 (1.29) 8.96 (1.32) 8.65 (1.40)
Males 9.96 (1.30) 9.76 (1.30) 9.48 (1.34) 9.23 (1.32) 8.97 (1.32) 8.61 (1.39)
Females 9.77 (1.24) 9.66 (1.25) 9.46 (1.24) 9.23 (1.26) 8.95 (1.33) 8.69 (1.41)
MM:
Total sample 3.26 (0.54) 3.24 (0.54) 3.19 (0.52) 3.15 (0.51) 3.11 (0.51) 3.07 (0.53)
Males 3.33 (0.54) 3.29 (0.54) 3.23 (0.53) 3.15 (0.51) 3.12 (0.50) 3.06 (0.53)
Females 3.20 (0.54) 3.20 (0.54) 3.15 (0.51) 3.13 (0.50) 3.09 (0.51) 3.07 (0.53)
SL:
Total sample 3.43 (0.67) 3.48 (0.66) 3.43 (0.69) 3.34 (0.72) 3.17 (0.80) 2.95 (0.90)
Males 3.45 (0.68) 3.47 (0.67) 3.40 (0.71) 3.34 (0.72) 3.19 (0.78) 2.95 (0.88)
Females 3.42 (0.66) 3.49 (0.65) 3.45 (0.66) 3.34 (0.72) 3.16 (0.81) 2.94 (0.92)
LE:
Total sample 3.16 (0.66) 2.98 (0.67) 2.85 (0.69) 2.74 (0.69) 2.68 (0.71) 2.64 (0.72)
Males 3.18 (0.67) 3.00 (0.68) 2.84 (0.72) 2.72 (0.71) 2.66 (0.72) 2.59 (0.73)
Females 3.15 (0.64) 2.97 (0.66) 2.86 (0.67) 2.76 (0.68) 2.70 (0.69) 2.68 (0.72)
SHQ ¼ Sense of Humor Questionnaire; MM ¼ Metamessage Sensitivity; SL ¼ Social Lik-
ing of Humor; LE ¼ Laughter Expressiveness.
Humor and health in a Norwegian county 127
cance levels, using r ¼ :10 as a minimally meaningful correlation (ac-
counting for 1 percent of the variance). As shown in Table 2, using the
total SHQ score as the measure of humor, the highest correlation was
found for general satisfaction with one’s own health (r ¼ :2 1), with high
health satisfaction being associated with high sense of hum or. All the re-
maining correlations with total SHQ, while being in the expected direc-
tion, were below .10, except for systolic and diastolic blood pressure
(r ¼:14 and .10, respectively). The correlations between health in-
dicators and the separate items of the SHQ indicated that the highest co-
e‰cient occurred for the association between laughter expressiveness and
overall health satisfaction (r ¼ :20). Also, meta-message sensitivity
(r ¼ :14) and social liking of humor (r ¼ :11) yielded coe‰cients above
.10 in relation to overall health satisfaction. In addition, systolic blood
pressure tended to be lower in those scoring higher on social liking of
humor (r ¼:14). Most of the other correlation coe‰cients were also
statistically highly significant, due to the large number of subjects in-
volved, despite the fact that they reflected only trivial sha red variance of
health indicators with sense of humor scores.
As seen previously in the analyses of variance as well as the correla-
tions with age shown in Table 2, scores on sense of humor were sig-
Table 2. Pearson correlation between sense of humor and various health indicators
Health indicators Humor measures
SHQ total MM SL LE
Overall satisfaction .21 .14 .11 .20
Dyspepsia .04 .03 .02 .03
Indigestion .06 .05 .01 .05
Cardio-respiratory .05 .03 .02 .05
Neck-shoulders .04 .02 .01 .04
Lowback-extremities .07 .04 .03 .06
Systolic blood pressure .14 .05 .14 .09
Diastolic blood pressure .10 .03 .08 .08
Body mass index .04 .00 .06 .02
Age .29 .13 .22 .23
Correlations at or above .02: p < .0004 (n ¼ 43,277).
SHQ ¼ Sense of Humor Questionnaire; MM ¼ Metamessage Sensitivity; SL ¼ Social
Liking of Humor; LE ¼ Laughter Expressiveness; Dyspepsia ¼ nausea/acid burns; Indi-
gestion ¼ diarrhea/constipation; Cardio-respiratory ¼ pounding heart/dyspnea; Neck-
shoulders ¼ pain in neck/shoulders; Lowback-extremities ¼ pain in lower back/extremities.
128 S. Svebak et al.
nificantly lower for the higher age cohorts. Also (although not shown in
the tables), health problems tended to increase with age. This holds for
subjective as well as objective health indicators. It is possible, therefore,
that the associations between scores on sense of humor and health are
confounded with age e¤ects. For this reason, partial correlations were
computed to control for the e¤ect of age upon associations between
scores on sense of humor and health indicators. The results of these
analyses are given in Table 3.
As can be seen in Table 3, the association of total SHQ scores with
overall health satisfaction dropped after eliminating the e¤ect of age
(partial r ¼ :12), as did the correlations for each of the three humor
items, particularly social liking of humor and laughter expressiveness.
However, due to the large sample size, the partial correlation with total
SHQ still remained highly significa nt ( p <:0004), despite the fact that
not much shared variance was accounted for in this coe‰cient (1.44 per-
cent). Overall, the correlations between the humor scores and the other
health indicators were also lowered when controlling for age. This was
particularly evident with the correlations for systolic and diastolic blood
pressure, which dropped to around zero. Thus, after controlling for age,
only overall health satisfaction showed correlations greater than .10 with
sense of humor.
Table 3. Partial correlations between sense of humor and various health indicators control-
ling for age
Health indicators SHQ-items
SHQ-total MM SL LE
Overall satisfaction .12 .10 .02 .12
Dyspepsia .04 .03 .02 .03
Indigestion .05 .05 .01 .05
Cardio-respiratory .04 .03 .01 .05
Neck-shoulders .01 .01 .01 .03
Lowback-extremities .02 .02 .01 .03
Systolic blood pressure .01 .03 .03 .04
Diastolic blood pressure .02 .02 .01 .01
Body mass index .01 .02 .02 .03
Correlations at or above .02: p < .0004 (n ¼ 43,277).
SHQ ¼ Sense of Humor Questionnaire; MM ¼ Metamessage Sensitivity; SL ¼ Social
Liking of Humor; LE ¼ Laughter Expressiveness; Dyspepsia ¼ nausea/acid burns; Indi-
gestion ¼ diarrhea/constipation; Cardio-respiratory ¼ pounding heart/dyspnea; Neck-
shoulders ¼ pain in neck/shoulders; Lowback-extremities ¼ pain in lower back/extremities.
Humor and health in a Norwegian county 129
Discussion
The descriptive data on sense of humor suggest that, on average, people
tend to present themselves with a sense of humor that is above the scale
midpoint. Also, older people tend on average to score lower th an younger
people do. This e¤ect of age was more pronounced for the social liking of
humor and laughter expressiveness dimensions than for the meta-message
sensitivity dimension. Thus, older people, as compared to younger peo-
ple, tend to express less mirth and laughter, tend to like humor less, and,
to a smaller degree, are less likely to notice humor in the environment.
With regard to sex, sense of humor scores for males were very slightly
higher than for females overall. However, the age by sex interaction
indicated that this weak sex di¤erence was only present in the younger
age groups, with males showing a greater decline in humor scores than
females ove r the age span. It is important to note that these sex e¤ects,
though statistically significant, were too weak to have any meaningful
relevance. It is also important to recognize that these cross-sectional data
do not allow us to determine whether humor declines with age within in-
dividuals or whether these age di¤erences are due to a cohort e¤ect (e.g.,
those born in an earlie r era may have been socialized to appreciate and
express humor less).
With regard to the humor-health relationship, these findings provided
no support for a strong association between sense of humor and various
health indicators, including overall satisfaction with one’s health, the ex-
perience of common bodily complaints (e.g., ind igestion, cardiorespir-
atory complaints, musculoskeletal pain and discomfort), and obj ective
indicators of cardiovascular health (systolic and diastolic blood pressure)
as well as obesity (body mass index). Since health problems tend to in-
crease with age, while sense of humor scores were found to be negatively
associated with age, it was important to partial out the e¤ects of age upon
the association of sense of humor with health parameters. This correction
caused a drop in almost every correlation. Most notably, the weak nega-
tive correlations between sense of humor and both systolic and diastolic
blood pre ssure were completely eliminated when age was taken into
account.
After controlling for age, only the association between sense of humor
and overall subjective health satisfaction remained at a magnitude of about
.10. Thus, individuals with greater senses of humor, as measured by the
total SHQ score as well as metamessage sensitivity and liking of humor
130 S. Svebak et al.
items, tend to report greater levels of subjective satisfaction with their
health. However, more objective indicators of health status are unrelated
to sense of hum or, suggesting that any direct links between hum or and
health may have more to do with subjective perceptions of well-being
than with actual e¤ects of humor or laughter on physical health. Of
course, the correlational nature of these data precludes us from identify-
ing the direction of causality between sense of humor and health satis-
faction. It may be that a greater sense of humor causes people to take a
more cheerful and optimistic perspective on any health problems they
may have, and therefore to express a greater level of satisfaction with
their overall health. On the other hand, it is also possible that greater
satisfaction with one’s health causes one to feel more cheerful and conse-
quently to take a more humorous perspective on life. From a public
health point of view, even such low correlations may reflect interest ing
associations of sense of humor with health satisfaction despite the fact
that they are poor predictors of individual health.
Some limitations of this study have to do with the measurement of
sense of hum or. First, the limited reliability of a 3-item measure of humor
may have attenuated the observed correlations between humor and health
parameters. However, the unreliability of measurement is o¤set by the
extremely large sample size, making this concern less salient. Second,
conclusions from this study are limited to the definition of sense of
humor reflected in the SHQ. The SHQ is based on a broad-base d three-
dimensional theoretical model of humor (Svebak 1974), and the full ver-
sion of this measure has been widely used in past humor research (see
Lefcourt and Martin 1986; Svebak 1996; Svebak and Martin 1997). It has
demonstrated good validity in relation to many variables commonly
associated with sense of humor (e.g., peer ratings of humor, ability to
generate humorous comments, cheerfulness, etc.) and is quite highly cor-
related with other wi dely used measures of sen se of humor. Thus, al-
though there may be some dimensions of humor that are not well tapped
by th is measure (e.g., distinctions between negative and positive uses of
humor: see Martin et al. 2003), it does captu re a broad definition of
humor that corresponds well to popular conceptions and is consistent
with past humor research.
This study was also limited to examination of direct associations be-
tween sense of humor and health parameters. Since th ere was no measure
of stressful life events in this large-scale population survey, we were un-
able to examine possible stress-bu¤ering e¤ects of humor on health. Thus,
Humor and health in a Norwegian county 131
this study does not exclude the possibility that sense of humor may be a
significant bu¤ering personality component in sub-samples of individuals
who are exposed to particular types of stressful life events. In fact, some
previous reports from empirical research have supported the hypothesis
that sense of humor may help people cope with the stresses of everyday
life in a way that bu¤ers related health hazards (Martin and Lefcourt
1983; see Martin 2001; and Svebak and Martin 1997, for reviews). None-
theless, in light of these findings based on a very large population sample,
there is no reason to assume that sense of humor is strongly associated
with health in a general population. There was no support given in these
data to a simplistic view that ‘‘laughter is the best medicine.’’
Norwegian University of Science and Technology and
University of Western Ontario
Note
Correspondence address: Sven Svebak, MTFS, INM, NTNU, NO-7489 Trondheim, Nor-
way; sven.svebak@medisin.ntnu.no
The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (The HUNT Study) is a collaboration of The HUNT
Research Center, Faculty of Medicine at The Norwegian University of Science and Tech-
nology (NTNU), Verdal, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and the Nord-Trøndelag
County Council.
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... Although the annotators of this dataset provided demographic data about their age and gender, this was not released as part of the humor detection task, and this is the first analysis of the impact of these age and gender on the humor and offense ratings in this large dataset. The analysis aims to uncover if humor and offense are as meaningfully linked in big datasets as they are in small-N studies, while validating evidence that there are gendered differences in the distribution of humor ratings [24], as well as tolerance of aggressive humor. ...
... Gender and age differences have been the subject of many studies in the fields of psychology, sociology, education, and management studies. Svebak et al. [24] found that "overall humor scores" were higher for men than they were for women. However, it should be noted that "overall humor" was narrowly assessed, using only three items, with each representing one of the dimensions of the Situational Humor Questionnaire. ...
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Computational humor detection systems rarely model the subjectivity of humor responses, or consider alternative reactions to humor - namely offense. We analyzed a large dataset of humor and offense ratings by male and female annotators of different age groups. We find that women link these two concepts more strongly than men, and they tend to give lower humor ratings and higher offense scores. We also find that the correlation between humor and offense increases with age. Although there were no gender or age differences in humor detection, women and older annotators signalled that they did not understand joke texts more often than men. We discuss implications for computational humor detection and downstream tasks.
... Age effects on humour appreciation were demonstrated by the study of Svebak et al. (2004) on all the population aged above 20 in Nord-Trøndelag, Norway. Compared to younger people, older people tended to express less mirth and laughter, enjoy humour less and notice less humour. ...
... It appears that sociobiographical factors which are intrinsic and less subject to change do not have the same effects on the appreciation of L2 humour as they have on the appreciation of L1 humour (cf. Azim et al., 2005;Greengross & Miller, 2011;Svebak et al., 2004). The second research question addresses the extent to which linguistic profiles predict the appreciation of British L2 humour among Chinese-English bilinguals. ...
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Aims and objectives/purpose/research questions The primary aim of this study is to investigate individual differences in the appreciation of humour in an L2 with a special focus on British humour. It examined the predictive effects of variables including sociobiographical factors, linguistic profiles, domain-specific communication, and degree of acculturation on L2 (British) humour appreciation among late Chinese–English bilinguals. Design/methodology/approach This study adopted a quantitative approach and used a video-embedded online questionnaire for data collection. A total of 131 UK-based late Chinese–English bilinguals rated the funniness of two short extracts from British sitcoms and answered questions regarding sociobiographical, linguistic, domain-specific communication, and cultural factors. Data and analysis Funniness rating scores were calculated for each participant and for each humour extract. Spearman’s rho correlation analysis was used to find out the correlations between funniness ratings and different variables. Other non-parametric statistical tests such as Kruskal–Wallis test, Mann–Whitney U test, and Wilcoxon signed-ranks test were run to compare the differences between variables. Findings/conclusions Chinese–English bilinguals who were more frequently engaged in humour-specific communication with friends and L1 speakers of British English and acculturated to a higher level tended to perceive L2 (British) humour funnier. Originality The study highlights the role of humour socialisation and acculturation, along with L2 proficiency, in the appreciation of L2 humour. Sociobiographical factors associated with the appreciation of L1 humour may not necessarily predict the appreciation of humour in an L2. Significance/implications The study contributes to the literature on the predictive factors for the domain of humour in an L2 among bilinguals and offers implications for both the field of bilingualism and humour.
... We found significantly more use of coping style humor in an age group of 18-30 years as compared to an age group of [31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45] years. This finding was consistent with the studies showing that sense of humor declines with age (Svebak et al., 2010;Svebak et al., 2004;Greengross, 2013;Daniluk & Borkowska, 2017). ...
... We found significantly more use of coping style humor in an age group of 18-30 years as compared to an age group of [31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45] years. This finding was consistent with the studies showing that sense of humor declines with age (Svebak et al., 2010;Svebak et al., 2004;Greengross, 2013;Daniluk & Borkowska, 2017). We found significantly more use of coping style humor in males as compared to females. ...
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Introduction: Novel corona virus has spread rapidly which created a crisis situation and took toll of lots of people all over the world. This sudden upsurge of patients with high infectivity rate and unexpected complications placed health care system under burden all over the world. Particularly at places like India, where there was scarcity of resources and health care professionals more stress was expected. Although there was enormous stress, yet the individual perception varies and accordingly coping strategies also. Aim: So, we tried to assess the perceived stress and coping strategies used by health care professionals during COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We collected data of 153 participants by using Perceived Stress scale and Brief COPE scale. Data was analyzed using Mann Whitney U test and Spearman's correlation coefficient. Results: We found high levels of perceived stress among 18-45 years age group when compared to older population. We found more use of total avoidant coping style and humor among participants staying alone than those staying with families. We also found more use of coping style humor among males and younger population. We found more use of coping style religion among females and participants staying with family. We found positive but weak correlation between perceived stress and total avoidant coping styles. Conclusion: Present study highlighted the need of support groups and special training programs for health care professionals to deal with the pandemic stress. We also recommend workshops for promoting positive coping strategies among health care professionals so that they can deal with stressful conditions of the pandemic in better ways.
... This scale consists of six subscales, each of which consists of five items. To shorten the questionnaire (Svebak et al., 2004), we selected the item with the highest factor loading (factor loadings ≥0.74) from each subscale and created a simplified six-item AWE-S. The items were as follows: "I sensed things momentarily slow down," "I felt that my sense of self was diminished," "I had the sense of being connected to everything," "I felt that I was in the presence of something grand," "I perceived vastness," and "I felt challenged to mentally process what I was experiencing." ...
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The novel coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID‐19) has had a significant impact on the global retail market. Nonetheless, consumers will eventually return to the market once the pandemic is effectively controlled. Therefore, it is critical to consider which features closely linked to COVID‐19 may affect consumer behavior. The present study thus addresses this gap by investigating the relationship of risk perceptions regarding COVID‐19 with an important component of consumer behavior—namely, willingness‐to‐pay (WTP)—and further explores the underlying mechanisms behind this relationship. Data collected from 480 Chinese participants were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Results showed that those with a greater risk perception regarding COVID‐19 were more likely to exhibit a higher WTP for various commodities, which can be driven by awe and perceived loss of control induced by COVID‐19. The present study delineates the effect that public health emergencies have on consumption intentions of the general public.
Chapter
Computational humor detection systems rarely model the subjectivity of humor responses, or consider alternative reactions to humor - namely offense. We analyzed a large dataset of humor and offense ratings by male and female annotators of different age groups. We find that women link these two concepts more strongly than men, and they tend to give lower humor ratings and higher offense scores. We also find that the correlation between humor and offense increases with age. Although there were no gender or age differences in humor detection, women and older annotators signalled that they did not understand joke texts more often than men. We discuss implications for computational humor detection and downstream tasks.
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This study is the first to investigate how a local government’s humorously framed response strategy on social media to a low-severity crisis influences people’s trust in the local government and their crisis-related behavioral intentions, specifically when considering the government’s responsibility for the crisis. Based on the situational crisis communication theory, we examined the mediating role of experienced positive or negative affect on people’s responses to a local government’s crisis communication strategy. Further, we exploratorily examined the predictive power and moderating role of demographics, sense of humor, disposition to trust, and the respective crisis scenarios. A total of 517 people participated in an online experiment in which they were confronted with three randomly presented fictive crisis scenarios where the local government’s crisis responsibility (high versus low) and the framing of their crisis response strategy (in form of humorous versus rational Twitter posts) were systematically varied between subjects. First, the results mostly corroborate earlier findings about the degree of crisis responsibility (that is, when a government’s crisis responsibility is high, people have less trust and behavioral intentions) and about the mediating role of experienced affect. Second, we found that humorously framed strategies negatively influence trust and positive affect (but not behavioral intentions). In contrast to earlier findings, the crisis responsibility × framing interaction was not significant. Altogether, the results advise against using humor in crisis communications on social media, even in low-severity crisis. Exploratory analyses indicate that further investigations should focus on specific crisis characteristics and potential moderators.
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The study was conducted in order to examine the correlation between the humor styles of the patients and their intensive care experiences. This study was conducted in descriptive and correlational design. The population of the study consisted of the patients who were treated in the general surgery, neurosurgery, neurology, and organ transplantation intensive care units of a university hospital. Its sample consisted of 204 intensive care patients. The data were collected using the Personal Information Form prepared by the researchers, Humor Styles Questionnaire, and Intensive Care Experience Questionnaire. The descriptive statistics, independent samples t test, One Way ANOVA, post-hoc tests, Correlation analysis and Cronbach's Alpha reliability analysis test were used to assess the data. In the study, it was found that the intensive care patients mostly used the affiliative and aggressive humor style and they had a positive intensive care experience. Additionally, there were a positive significant weak correlation between the affiliative humor and the subscale of “satisfaction with care” of ICEQ and a negative significant weak correlation between the subscales of “frightening experiences” and “recall of experience”. As a result of the study, it was observed that the patients using the affiliative humor style had less pessimistic experience, remembered the intensive care experiences less, and were satisfied with the care provided the intensive care unit.
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O envelhecimento humano é processo complexo, permeado por perdas e ganhos. A maturidade implica em novas aprendizagens, conquistas e realizações, mas por outro lado, pode vir acompanhada de perdas significativas, que demandam a elaboração de lutos. Assim, o objetivo deste trabalho é analisar, por meio de uma revisão narrativa, quais são as singularidades do luto no envelhecer, tanto aquele que envolve perdas de pessoas próximas, quanto outras perdas simbólicas. Para isso, recorreu-se às bases de dados científicas a fim de realizar um amplo rastreamento da produção de artigos entre o período de 2008 a 2020. Foram feitas leituras sistemáticas do material pesquisado e os dados foram examinados à luz da Análise de Conteúdo, tal como proposta por Bardin (2009). Após a leitura e revisão dos artigos, foram elencadas quatro categorias temáticas: Luto pela morte de cônjuge e filhos; Luto e perdas simbólicas; Religiosidade e espiritualidade no processo de luto; Luto e Institucionalização. O luto revelou-se como processo multidimensional, que envolve elementos físicos, psicológicos e sociais, cuja interação deve ser levada em consideração na avaliação do processo como um todo. Particularidades como gênero, etnia, classe social, espiritualidade, recursos psíquicos, constituição genética, acesso a serviços de saúde, entre outras, são determinantes na elaboração das perdas. Portanto, o luto precisa de tempo, acolhimento, escuta, compreensão e espaço para ser elaborado, ressignificado. Como profissionais da saúde, é preciso validar os sentimentos envolvidos nesse processo a fim de que os mais velhos possam elaborar suas perdas, encontrar mecanismos de enfrentamento e reinvestirem no mundo.
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Introdução: O processo de envelhecimento reveste-se de particularidades nas quais o senso de humor parece interferir. Objetivo: Mapear a produção científica sobre os fatores associados ao senso de humor enquanto resposta humana e os seus efeitos nas pessoas idosas. Método: Revisão de escopo alargada segundo a metodologia do Joanna Briggs Institute. Foram pesquisados artigos publicados em português, inglês e espanhol, sem espectro temporal definido nas plataformas Scopus, Web Of Science, CINAHL, MEDLINE, B-ON e Google Acadêmico. Resultados: Foram identificados 228 artigos e incluídos 18 destes. Foi encontrada informação sobre o senso de humor relacionado com a longevidade; a mortalidade; o bem-estar; a saúde; a depressão; a ansiedade; a satisfação com a vida; as relações interpessoais; a qualidade de vida; o enfrentamento; a personalidade; e o gênero. Considerações Finais: O senso de humor é um fenômeno que carece de aprofundamento conceitual. Da análise dos temas emergentes identificados evidencia-se que estes se relacionam entre si e com o senso de humor. Revisão registada na plataforma Open Science Framework (OSF) com o código osf.io/acm89.
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Recently, animated sitcoms such as Family Guy and American Dad have generated considerable interest internationally. This genre is known for its portrayal of controversial political and social issues combined with strategies of malicious humor, exaggeration, and stereotyping. This study addresses the question of whether humor styles and humor types predict viewer interest in animated sitcoms. A total of 1,052 Hungarian adults (41.6% male, M age = 24.7 years, SD = 7.2) participated in an online survey focusing on animated sitcom viewing habits and the use of humor. It was found that males and younger individuals were more likely to watch animated sitcoms regularly than females and older individuals. As a result of multiple regressions, it was also found that individuals with high levels of self-enhancing and aggressive humor, and low levels of self-defeating humor were more likely to view animated sitcoms. Regarding humor types, individuals with low levels of all humor styles were less likely to watch animated sitcoms regularly. These findings can possibly contribute to a more nuanced understanding of media selection preferences in the level of individual differences.
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A review of literature indicates that humor could be related to pain tolerance through three possible mechanisms: cognitive emotional processes, changes in the neuroendocrine and immunological systems, and muscle relaxation. Seventy-two university students were exposed to a cold water pressor. While one of their hands was kept in cold water; one-third of them watched a humorous film, one-third watched a documentary film, and the last third was a control group. Subjects in each group were divided into high and low humor according to self-report questionnaires. The humorous film did not help control pain more than the documentary film. The only significant difference found between the groups was that subjects who watched the humorous film estimated the effectiveness of the film as higher. Furthermore, a positive relationship was found between tolerance of pain and sense of humor, especially with the capacity to produce humor. The results indicate that those who perceived the film as funny tolerated more pain, suggesting that humor helps only when perceived as such. The results are discussed in relation to other empirical evidence, and implications for further research are suggested.
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The present paper outlines the relevance of cheerfulness, seriousness, and bad mood for humor research. A state-trait model of exhilaratability is presented which incorporates the three concepts as both states and traits. Definitions of the concepts are undertaken utilizing a facet approach and the relationships among the three concepts are outlined. The construction strategy for the various forms of the German version of the State-Trait-Cheerfulness-Inventory (STCI) is outlined and the following versions of the trait form will be elaborated: (a) the pilot form with 122 items (STCI-T < 122 >); (b) a component (or long) form with 106 items (STCI-T < 106 >); (c) the standard form with 60 items (STCI-T < 60 >) and (d) the international form with 106 items (STCI-T < 106i >). The development of the two forms, the replication of the psychometric characteristics, and the evaluation of the facet model utilized samples of German and American adults comprising more that 1,300 subjects altogether. The hypothesized facet structure emerged and appeared to be highly generalizable across the samples. The psychometric characteristics of the facets and scales appeared to be satisfactory. While there were no sex differences in any of the scales, seriousness increased steadily after age 40. Correspondence between self- and peer-evaluation was examined and turned out to be sufficiently high. The construction seemed to have been successful in providing a reliable instrument for the assessment of the temperamental basis of the sense of humor.
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Coping humor, beliefs about personal control, irrational beliefs, and the occurrence of desirable events (positive stress) have been proposed as moderators of the effects of negative stress on psychological and physical health. The effects of these variables and of negative stressful life events on health were examined in a retrospective study of 159 college students. The results indicated that: (a) negative stress was directly related to both psychological and physical health as a main effect, but positive stress was not; (b) when statistical corrections designed to hold the overall Type I error rate at .05 were made, there were no significant negative stress by moderator interactions; (c) when less conservative statistical restrictions were used, four negative stress by moderator interactions approached significance; however, three of these were actually in the wrong direction, further suggesting (as in b) that these moderator effects were actually Type I errors; (d) coping humor, personal control, and ...
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Three studies, conducted with 143 undergraduates, are reported that investigated the hypothesis, long held by theorists, therapists, and laypersons alike, that a sense of humor reduces the deleterious impact of stressful experiences. In each study a negative-life-events checklist was used to predict stress scores on a measure of mood disturbance. These studies made use of different measures of Ss' sense of humor, including 4 self-report scales and 2 behavioral assessments of Ss' ability to produce humor under nonstressful and mildly stressful conditions. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that 5 of the 6 humor measures produced a significant moderating effect on the relation between negative life events and mood disturbance. Ss with low humor scores obtained higher correlations between these 2 variables than did those with high humor scores. Results provide initial evidence for the stress-buffering role of humor. (42 ref)
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All published research examining effects of humor and laughter on physical health is reviewed. Potential causal mechanisms and methodological issues are discussed. Laboratory experiments have shown some effects of exposure to comedy on several components of immunity, although the findings are inconsistent and most of the studies have methodological problems. There is also some evidence of analgesic effects of exposure to comedy, although similar findings are obtained with negative emotions. Few significant correlations have been found between trait measures of humor and immunity, pain tolerance, or self-reported illness symptoms. There is also little evidence of stress-moderating effects of humor on physical health variables and no evidence of increased longevity with greater humor. More rigorous and theoretically informed research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn about possible health benefits of humor and laughter.
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Substantial research has demonstrated that cognitive psychological techniques including distraction can increase pain tolerance. In recent years, there also have been claims that humor and laughter possess unique characteristics for coping with pain and stress. Theoretically, explanations include the release of endorphins, the lowering of tension, as well as the distraction that results from humor. The question is whether humor is more effective than simple distraction. For this purpose humor was contrasted with a repulsive stimulus and a neutral stimulus controlled for interest level, that would also have distraction capabilities but not the unique aspects of humor. Pain tolerance was tested using cold pressor stimulation. Four groups (20 subjects in each) were tested. Three groups were shown a film: (1) a humorous film, (2) a repulsive film, (3) a neutral film. Group 4 was not shown any film. Results indicated that both the humor and repulsive groups showed a significant increase in pain tolerance as compared to the other groups. The repulsive group yielded the largest increase in pain tolerance although not different from the humor group. Except for sex differences, pain ratings did not show any group effects. Discussion focused on the type of distraction that would be meaningful for increasing pain tolerance and on the place of humor in pain control.
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The development of the Sense of Humor Questionnaire (SHQ) is reviewed in six sections. First, early approaches to sense of humor assessments are reviewed to the extent that these approaches provided a reference for the need of a new scale. A second section presents the ideas and evaluations that guided the overall approach to the preliminary SHQ content formation. A third section describes the content of the pre-published SHQ and problems that emerged from the use of this scale in empirical research. The 1974 revision of the SHQ is presented in a separate section along with the available information on its psychometric characteristics and an evaluation of its usefulness in empirical research. A fifth section offers a review of some of the findings from other groups using the SHQ and a final section describes the content and psychometric properties of a recent six-item revision of the SHQ (SHQ-6) that appears to overcome some of the shortcomings of the previous versions of the scale. The SHQ-6 items and scoring format are included.
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The mediation of superior coping with physical discomfort after humorous stimulation was explored through respondents' exposure to materials varying markedly in their capacity to evoke amusement and joviality. Both male and female respondents were exposed to (a) stand-up comedy, (b) situation comedy, (c) serious drama, (d) instructional material, or (e) tragedy. Discomfort threshold for cuff pressure at the upper arm was ascertained prior to and following exposure. Cognitive and affective responses to the materials were recorded after the postexposure threshold measurement. Compared against exposure to instructional material in the control condition, and compared against pre-exposure threshold measures, exposure to either type of comedy and, unexpectedly, to tragedy significantly elevated the threshold for physical discomfort in both male and female respondents. Serious drama had no such effect. Taken together, the exposure effects on the discomfort threshold could not be attributed to amusement reactions. Nor could they be considered mediated by responses of positive hedonic quality during and after exposure. There was some indication, however, that the capacity of stimuli to evoke humorous reactions (material being deemed funny) and the absorption potential of stimuli (material being deemed captivating) were positively involved in the mediation of postexposure tolerance of physical discomfort.