Watching funny shows helps children tolerate pain longer, study finds

October 23, 2007

Watching comedy shows helps children tolerate pain for longer periods of time, according to a study by UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the nonprofit organization Rx Laughter.

The study findings, published in the October issue of the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, suggest that humorous distraction could be used in clinical settings to help children and adolescents better handle painful procedures.

Laughter has long been viewed as good medicine, and although there are many programs that bring humor into pediatric hospitals, little research has been done on the utility of humor for children or adolescents undergoing stressful or painful procedures, such as blood draws and treatments for cancer.

Rx Laughter, an organization founded by former television executive Sherry Dunay Hilber that promotes the use of humor in healing, worked with UCLA researchers on the study, which was funded by a grant from Comedy Central. Participants watched funny classic and contemporary films and television programs while undergoing a standardized pain task -- in this case, placing their hands in icy-cold water, said Dr. Margaret Stuber, a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and first author of the study.

The group demonstrated "significantly greater pain tolerance" while viewing the funny shows, according to the study.

Stuber said that researchers documented submersion times and participants' appraisal of the pain and examined them in relation to humor indicators -- the number of times the children laughed or smiled and their 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, UCLA's Jane and Marc Nathanson Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "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.

Eighteen healthy children -- 12 boys and six girls between the ages of 7 and 16, with a mean age of 12 -- participated in the study. An ice chest was fitted with a plastic mesh screen to separate crushed ice from a plastic mesh armrest placed in 50-degree water. Water was circulated through the ice by a pump to prevent local warming. Participants placed a hand in the cold water to a depth of two inches above the wrist for up to three minutes maximum. Their hands were warmed between tests with warm towels.

Researchers took a baseline measure of submersion duration before the video was viewed, a measurement after and one while participants watched the video. The children left their hands in the icy water significantly longer when watching the funny shows, Stuber said.

Further study is needed to explore the specific mechanism behind the increased pain tolerance, 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. "However, the results do support the types of interventions being done at children's hospitals across the United States."
UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center comprises about 235 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson Center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2007, the center was named the best cancer center in California by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for eight consecutive years.

University of California - Los Angeles

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to