Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Psychology Experiments Evince That Negative Humor (Self-Effacing, Cynical, Morbid, or Derogatory) Harms Your Health

Stuart K. Hayashi

Lately the State of Humanity has been on my mind...

You know that saying that laughter is the best medicine? Psychology experiments confirm that life-affirming humor has a beneficent effect on your long-term happiness. By contrast, psychology experiments evince that morbid humor, cynical humor, self-effacing humor, and put-down humor do have a deleterious effect on the person dispensing such humor; those types of humor do not mitigate long-term unhappiness but instead reinforce it ultimately.

Whereas positive humor styles increase feelings of self-worth and conscientiousness, and possibly even improve longevity, negative humor styles have the opposite effect. People who use self-defeating humor tend to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, and those who use aggressive humor [putting others down] often adopt poor coping mechanisms.... 
In short, humor can either improve or harm our health, depending on how it’s used. Dealing with conflict in positive ways, such as laughing to put ourselves in a good mood, is probably as important as getting on that Stairmaster three times a week. Laughing negatively at ourselves or taking a dark, sardonic attitude — well, you might as well starting drinking and smoking, too.

—Scott Weems, Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why, (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2014), p. 147, citing Paul Frewen, et al., “Humor Styles and Personality — Vulnerability to Depression,” Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 21, no. 2, year 2008: pages 179–195; Vassilis Saroglou and Lydwine Anciaux, “Liking Sick Humor: Coping Styles and Religion As Predictors,” Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 17, no. 3, year 2004: pages 257–277; Nicolas Kuiper and Rod Martin, “Humor and Self-Concept,” Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 6, no. 3, year 1993: pages 251–270; and Nicholas Kuiper, et al., “Humor Is Not Always the Best Medicine: Specific Components of Sense of Humor and Psychological Well-Being,” Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 17, no. 1/2, year 2004: pages 135–168.