Is it possible that the humor of dad jokes is good for your health?

Maskot via Getty Images

(Mascot via Getty Images)

In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a health quiz:

‒ If they ask you if you just cut your hair, have you ever said: “No, I cut them all”.

‒ If your child said, “I’m hungry!” Would you reply, “Hello, hungry, it’s dad.”

‒ If your daughter asked you to make her a milkshake, you would say, “Wow! You’re a milkshake.”

If you answered yes to any of them, you committed a dad joke.

That’s not to be confused with a bad joke, although by definition, yes, they probably are. And you don’t have to be a parent to count one. But for those of us with a certain type of parent, the threat level can be as high as a single squirrel in a tree. (Do you know how to catch a unique squirrel? Unique in it).

But here’s a surprise: This less surprising form of comedy could be good for you and those around you.

The term “daddy joke” is relatively new. The concept isn’t, said Anne Libera, director of comedy studios at The Second City in Chicago. They used to be called just “jokes”.

Libera teaches about dad jokes. Really. As in, she is also an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago and has written about the science of comedy for the AMA Journal of Ethics. “They’re comedy at its most subtle,” often based on puns and, unless you’re 5, nothing you haven’t heard before.

Now, no one has done any in-depth research on the cardiovascular benefits of dad jokes. If they have, they are not admitting it. But if you accept that dad jokes could, in theory, provide humor and possibly produce a laugh, experts say the benefits could be small but real.

Laughter, for example, has been associated with boosting short-term memory, creativity and immunity, said Dr. Gurinder Bains, an associate professor of health-related studies at Loma Linda University in California.

Bains, also a former director of research for the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, said laughter has many mechanisms for improving health. “For example, laughter reduces the stress hormone cortisol,” which has been associated with a risk of cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure. It might also help with sleep by promoting melatonin release.

Laughter also allows for a burst of emotion that improves mood and eases pain. endorphinssaid Dr. Beth Frates, director of wellness and lifestyle medicine in the department of surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Frates co-authored a 2016 review of laughter research.published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, which was conceived during a fit of laughter with his co-authors during a walk around the Harvard campus.

She can’t remember what made them laugh. (“It wasn’t a dad joke,” she said.) But the review distinguishes humor from laughter. Namely (ha!): Humor is a stimulus; laughter is the answer. Something can be funny without causing laughter.

But having a sense of humor has been linked to benefits. Frates noticed a 2016 study in Psychosomatic Medicine that used 15 years of health data on more than 53,000 Norwegians to link a sense of humor with longer life. Women had a lower risk of death from all causes, but especially from infections and heart disease; men saw a lower risk of dying from infections.

Frates said that even a simple joke could relieve stress by putting people in a better place mentally. If “there was some tension in the room, but Dad tells the milkshake joke, that can reduce the tension and change the direction of the conversation going forward. So even if not everyone is laughing, it has the ability to redirect us.” to a place of positivity.”

Frates emphasized that insulting humor is harmful. But when humor elicits warm laughter, he said, it can forge social connections in a fun, deep and joyful way. “Connecting over laughter is something special and unique that tends to last.”

And because social connections have been repeatedly shown to be critical to health, we’ve come to what may be the most powerful blow of the humble father joke.

Dad jokes may lack originality, Libera said, but they stand out for their universality. Anyone can say one, and they’re based on commonplace things, like silly puns, that transcend age, politics, and background.

“The use of humor is a connective tissue that allows us to see the other person as having a mind, and a mind like ours,” Libera said.

A dad joke could be a particularly clumsy way of trying to forge a connection, he said. But “when we laugh together, we connect with each other by being equals in some fundamental way.”

In this sense, even the predictability of a dad joke is a plus. “We’ve been told something like that before,” Libera said. “So it’s almost like I’m being told a favorite story.”

Frates saw this in action with his own father. “He definitely had a lot of dad jokes,” he said. “And I didn’t really find them funny when I was a kid or a teenager. But all my friends did.” So even when she wasn’t laughing, humor was something everyone supported.

It took Frates years to appreciate what his father was doing. And now, 10 years after her death, just talking about dad jokes and her Father’s Day made her reflect on how her scientific interest in laughter and her health traces back to him. “My whole introduction to humor was with my dad.”

So his advice to anyone getting together for Father’s Day is not to fear the father joke. “When we are together, when you share humor, you share health.”

If you have questions or comments about this news from the American Heart Association, please email [email protected]