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Does Humor Make You Live Longer?

Consider the life span of famous classic era comedians.

I just attended a “Laughter is Good Medicine” seminar put on by a local hospital. The speaker pointed to evidence showing that laughing has such good effects as:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower blood glucose
  • Dull pain
  • Alleviate stress and anxiety
  • Improve feeling of well being

... and it even burns substantial calories.

I suspect humor also improves longevity, though I only have anecdotal and presumptive evidence for that. But the evidence seems hard to dismiss. Think about how long so many classic stand-up comedians of the preceding generation lived.

Most of these comedians were actively performing right up to their last days. Here is a listing of comedians most people in my generation will recognize and their age when they finally died.

Bob Hope, 100

George Burns, 100

Phyllis Diller, 95

Milton Berle, 94

Henny Youngman, 92

Victor Borge, 91

Dick Van Dyke, 88 (still alive)

Jimmy Durante, 87

Jerry Lewis, 87 (still performing)

Bea Arthur, 87

Groucho Marx, 87

Jonathan Winters, 86

Jack Paar, 86

Red Skelton, 84

Bob Newhart, 84 (still performing)

Soupy Sales, 83

Rodney Dangerfield, 83

Mel Blanc, 81

Johnny Carson, 80

Jack Benny, 80

These comedians obviously had good memories, because even in their old age they could spout a steady stream of jokes from memory without a teleprompter. To have a good memory, you have to have a healthy brain, and a healthy brain often is healthy because the body is healthy. Healthy bodies live longer.

Let’s also remember that some of these people led a hard life, mostly on the road, in an era when people in general did not live that long.

One thing is for sure. Whether or not humor makes you live longer, it surely does make you live happier.