Utility of Therapeutic Laughter Courses in Higher Education

By William C. Andress.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

College students are increasingly feeling overwhelmed and stressed. This has serious ramifications. According to The Centers for Disease Control, suicide is now the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death among college students. Despite these disturbing numbers, suicide rates are even higher in such diverse countries as Russia, Japan, South Korea, Finland, France, and even Hong Kong.
Recognizing that at least 13% of college women suffer depression, a major outcome of poor coping skills and a factor in 30% -70% of all suicides, the author has been able to successfully teach stress management skills through the initiation of “therapeutic laughter” courses on two different university campuses. Pre/post course data utilizing Dr. Paul McGhee’s Sense of Humor Scales and Dr. Martin Seligman’s Explanatory Style surveys have demonstrated that a university level course in the theoretical science and practical application of therapeutic humor is indeed effective in enabling students to better cope with the stresses of undergraduate life and to change explanatory style from one of pessimism and depression to one that is more optimistic, often at a highly significant (p=<.01) level. This paper gives a historical background to the field of “therapeutic laughter” and summarizes research findings related to its physiological and psychological impacts. Special emphasis is given to its application in academia. Included are a suggested course outline, results of the author’s own research using Sense of Humor Scales and Explanatory Style surveys, and recommendations for ongoing research to further validate the utility of offering such courses on university campuses.

Keywords: Therapeutic Laughter, Humor, Stress Reduction, Innovative Curriculum, Explanatory Style

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.101-114. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 856.425KB).

Dr. William C. Andress

Associate Professor, Health and Exercise Science Department, La Sierra University, Riverside, CA, USA

Preventive Care Specialist with 10 years experience teaching in higher education including two and a half years in the Philippines. Prior to that he spent six years as Director of Health Promotion and Wellness at Hong Kong Adventist Hospital. While teaching at Oakland University in Michigan, he developed a course in therapeutic laughter as a mechanism to help his students cope with the stress they were experiencing. On-going data collection has led him to believe that such courses should be taught more widely. He is also the author of two books, 1) Grandma Whitney: Queen of the Mountain–A biography of the oldest person to climb Mt. Whitney and the oldest American to climb Mt. Fuji, both at the age of 91; and 2) Adventist Heritage of Health, Hope, and Healing–A history of Seventh-day Adventists from the perspective of their contributions to living a healthy lifestyle.


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