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Some Kinds of Laughter May Be Good Medicine for Diabetes

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Some Kinds of Laughter May Be Good Medicine for Diabetes

The psychological benefits of humor have long been known, even though many suspected benefits of laughter and humor remain unclear. Having a sense of humor may help you cope with the ups and downs of life, including living with diabetes. But there haven’t been many studies looking specifically at the relationship between humor and blood glucose control in people with diabetes. One such study, though, was presented at the 81st Scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) — and found that certain styles of humor are linked to better blood glucose control.

The study’s goal was to examine whether there was a difference in the humor styles of people with diabetes who had an A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) below 7.0%, and those with an A1C level of 7.0% or higher. This A1C threshold represents the recommended A1C target for most people with diabetes, according to clinical care guidelines from the American Diabetes Association. The study used survey questions to examine four different styles of humor.

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Two styles of humor were considered positive — affiliative humor and self-enhancing humor. Affiliative humor emphasizes widely shared everyday experiences, while self-enhancing humor involves being able to laugh at yourself or your situation in a good-natured way. Two styles of of humor were considered negative — aggressive humor and self-defeating humor. Aggressive humor involves putting down or insulting other people, while self-defeating humor involves putting down or insulting yourself.

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Positive humor linked to improved blood glucose control

The study’s participants were 284 people with diabetes, about two-thirds of them with type 1. Most of them were white (89.1%), female (68.3%), and college-educated (68.7%). All of them had their A1C measured, and took a survey called the Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ). The results showed that participants with an A1C level below 7.0% scored significantly higher on both types of positive humor (affiliative and self-enhancing) compared with participants with an A1C level of 7.0% or higher. There weren’t any significant differences between the two A1C groups in negative humor (aggressive or self-defeating), showing that while negative humor may not be harmful for blood glucose control, positive humor appears to be beneficial.

It’s not clear, though, that having a positive style of humor was actually responsible for the better blood glucose control seen in these participants. It’s possible, for example, that better blood glucose control could lead to having a better mood, which might make people more likely to have a positive style of humor. And even if having a positive style of humor does tend to help people with diabetes achieve better blood glucose control, it’s not clear whether there’s anything you can do to make yourself have any particular style of humor.

Still, the the implications of this study could be huge. “The existence of positive humor is connected to reduced medical complications, psychological complications, and successful diabetes management,” the study’s summary states. “Since humor is free, readily available, and can be developed and strengthened, it is suggested as a viable treatment component. Furthermore, results confirm and add support to the evidence that including humor in diabetes education leads to improved diabetes education outcomes.”

Want to learn more about blood glucose management? See our “Blood Sugar Chart,” then read “Blood Sugar Monitoring: When to Check and Why” and “Strike the Spike II: How to Manage High Blood Glucose After Meals.”

Living with type 2 diabetes? Check out our free type 2 e-course!

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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