While having a sense of humor is associated with improved emotional functioning and an enhanced quality of life among patients with a chronic lung illness, the actual act of laughing can reduce lung function, at least in the short term, according to a new study published in the journal Heart & Lung.

The study evaluated humor and laughter in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patients who exhibited a greater sense of humor were more likely to report fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and better quality of life, and they tended to report that they had experienced fewer respiratory illnesses in the month before the study.

Patients who watched a 30-minute comedy video and laughed during the viewing, however, had lower pulmonary function afterward than did patients who watched a home-repair video that did not prompt laughter. According to the researchers conducting the study, the pattern of the findings suggests that appreciating and perceiving humor may have a different effect than laughing aloud for patients with moderate to severe COPD.

“This study shows that humor is really more complex than people make it out to be,” said Charles Emery, professor of psychology at Ohio State University and senior author of the study. “Yes, humor definitely has benefits, but the behaviors associated with humor in fact may not be good for all people all the time—which is a useful thing to know.”

Source: Ohio State University