Although there are many programs that bring humour into paediatric hospitals, little research had been done on the utility of humour for children or adolescents undergoing stressful or painful procedures such as blood draws and treatments for cancer.

The study’s participants watched funny classic and contemporary films and television series before, during and after a standardized pain task, in this case placing their hands in icy cold water, said Dr. Margaret Stuber, a researcher in the Jonsson Cancer Center and the first author of the study. Eighteen healthy children aged seven to 16 - twelve boys and six girls - with a mean age of 12 participated in the study.

The group demonstrated “significantly greater pain tolerance” while viewing the funny shows, according to Stuber. The researchers documented participants’ appraisal of the pain and noted submersion times and examined them in relation to humour indicators - the number of laughs/smiles and the children’s ratings of how funny the show was for them.

“We found that viewing funny videos increased the tolerance of pain for children, but did not change their ratings of the severity of the pain,” said Stuber. “Although they kept their hands in the water longer, they didn’t describe the task as any less painful than when they weren’t watching the videos. However, this may mean that it simply took longer for the pain to become severe enough to remove their hand.” The number of laughs recorded was not related to either pain tolerance or appraisal, Stuber said. “Since we did not test any other types of distracters, it could be that something equally distracting but not funny would also be effective,” she said.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)