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The science of laughter - and how to harness the benefits

We have never needed laughter more - it boosts health, reduces anxiety and connects us with others. A recent study suggests that we can get all these benefits with simulated laughter. Shane Cochrane reports

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There's evidence that laughter does lots of good things for our health

There's evidence that laughter does lots of good things for our health

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There's evidence that laughter does lots of good things for our health

Last year, Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky of the University of Derby recruited 21 people to take part in a very strange experiment. Each recruit was shown how to record a Laughie, a one-minute recording of their own laughter, and told to laugh along with their Laughie, three times a day.

After just one week, the group reported experiencing a number of significant effects that they attributed to the Laughie. Nearly all of them increased in their wellbeing scores - as measured by the World Health Organisation well-being index. Many said they felt less anxious. Some said they were sleeping better. Others reported feeling less lonely.

One of the participants, 93-year-old Sylvie, said that using the Laughie had encouraged her to laugh while watching TV on her own, something she didn't normally do. Another said that the Laughie had helped her curtail her anger after a heated exchange with a friend.