As anyone who has had a giggling fit can attest, laughter is good for the soul.
But a growing body of research suggests it could be a tonic for the body too. The latest finding is that watching just half an hour of comedy a day slashes levels of stress hormones and compounds linked to heart disease. While the study focused on diabetes sufferers, researcher Dr Lee Berk believes most of us could benefit from a daily dose of humour.
Dr Berk, of Loma Linda University in California, studied 20 men and women taking medication for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All took their tablets as usual but half were also prescribed 'mirthful laughter' in the form of 30 minutes of comedy every day.
Stress hormone levels fell in the comedy viewers after two months, the American Physiological Society's annual conference heard.
By four months, levels of compounds linked to hardening of the arteries and other cardiac problems had also dropped, while levels of 'good' cholesterol - thought to protect against heart disease - rose.