Article ID: JE20200051
Background: While laughter is broadly recognized as a good medicine, a potential preventive effect of laughter on disability and death is still being debated. Accordingly, we investigated the association between the frequency of laughter and onset of functional disability and all-cause mortality among the older adults in Japan.
Methods: The data for a 3-year follow-up cohort including 14,233 individuals (50.3% men) aged ≥ 65 years who could independently perform the activities of daily living and participated in the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study were analyzed. The participants were classified into four categories according to their frequency of laughter (almost every day, 1–5 days/week, 1–3 days/month, and never or almost never). We estimated the risks of functional disability and all-cause mortality in each category using a Cox proportional hazards model.
Results: During follow-up, 605 (4.3%) individuals developed functional disability, identified by new certification for the requirement of Long-Term Care Insurance, and 659 (4.6%) deaths were noted. After adjusting for the potential confounders, the multivariate-adjusted hazard ratio of functional disability increased with a decrease in the frequency of laughter (p for trend = 0.04). The risk of functional disability was 1.42 times higher for individuals who laughed never or almost never than for those who laughed almost every day. No such association was observed with the risk of all-cause mortality (p for trend = 0.39).
Conclusions: Low frequency of laughter is associated with increased risks of functional disability. Laughter may be an early predictor of functional disability later on in life.