Laughter Therapy May Improve Mood, Decrease Pain in Patients With Cancer

Patients with cancer and their caregivers may have decreases in mood disturbances after sessions of laughter therapy.

Laughter therapy may be a method to provide support for patients with cancer who are terminally ill and for their caregivers, as study findings demonstrated.

The results of this study provide evidence that laughter therapy was useful in decreasing mood disturbances in both palliative care patients and family caregivers, reducing pain perception in palliative care patients, and reducing the levels of burnout in family caregivers,” the researchers wrote in the study published in Cancer Nursing. “Thus, laughter therapy can be an alternative intervention to support patients and family caregivers in palliative care settings.”

Laughter therapy refers to alternative and complementary therapy using humor to help relieve stress and pain, in addition to potentially improving a patient’s sense of well-being, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers conducting this study aimed to assess the effect of laughter therapy on pain and mood disturbances in patients with cancer receiving palliative care, in addition to levels of burnout and mood disturbances in their family caregivers. To do so, researchers analyzed data from 26 pairs of patients with cancer who were terminally ill and family caregivers who underwent laughter therapy. These pairs were compared with 23 pairs of patients and caregivers who underwent routine care provided in the hospice ward.

Laughter therapy consisted of five 20- to 30-minute sessions held over five consecutive days, during which participants would introduce themselves using funny tools or actions while relieving tension. They would also move their bodies while performing laughing rhythms, and then the session would end with strengthening self-confidence through self-expression.

Both groups of participants completed questionnaires throughout the study to assess mood disturbances, pain and burnout.

Based on these questionnaires, there were significant decreases in mood disturbances in both patients and family caregivers, in addition to levels of burnout in caregivers and pain in patients.

“The results showed that laughter therapy had positive effects on the patients and their family caregivers, with significant differences between the intervention group and the comparison group,” the study authors wrote. “This indicates that our palliative care patients and family caregivers would have a positive view of the use of laughter or humor in their palliative circumstances.”

One limitation of this study relates to the potential long-term effects of laughter therapy in both patients and caregivers.

“It is difficult for us to estimate how long the effects of the laughter therapy lasted because the effects of the laughter therapy were examined one time after the intervention,” the researchers wrote. “More research is needed to capture the long-time impact of laughter therapy on the physical and psychological well-being of palliative care patients and family caregivers.”

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