National Humour Month & the Therapeutic Value of Humour

by E.L., FCO Placement Student

National Humour Month was founded in 1976 by comedian Larry Wilde. It was designed to heighten public awareness regarding how laughter’s joy and therapeutic value can improve health, boost morale, increase communication skills, and enrich the quality of one's life (National Humour Month, 2021). Humour can impact individuals across different contexts and is utilized in various aspects of our lives. Hunter Adams, known globally thanks to the late Robin Williams movie “Patch Adams,” is a doctor, “but above all else, I consider myself an activist for peace, justice and care for all people,” who travels with volunteers to distressed regions multiple times a year, where they dress as clowns to bring humour to orphans and patients. (Adams, 2022) Adam’s goal was to reframe the hospital setting, which consists of humanitarian clowning using an intuitive improvisational play approach. Humour therapy approaches have also been used in long-term care homes for elderly patients diagnosed with (EWD) elderly with dementia.

Long-term care involves various services designed to meet a person's health or personal care needs during a short or long period (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The Canadian Association for Long-Term Care states that long-term care homes provide 24-hour care for people with complex needs who cannot remain at home or in supportive living facilities. “LTC settings provide accommodation, 24-hour personal support with daily activities such as eating or bathing, and on-site health care services” (Canadian Association for Long Term Care 2021). When a patient is brought to live in a long-term home, they may experience mixed feelings regarding being removed from their home. Dementia patients may experience emotions ranging from grief, loss, anger, shock, fear, and disbelief to relief. A diagnosis may trigger depression and anxiety in some people, and humour therapy is a preventive measure that has been studied to confirm whether it benefits dementia patients. (The psychological and emotional impact of dementia, 2019) Humour benefits caregivers of chronic disease patients who need respite as “caregivers are at high risk of becoming sick, and humour therapy can help release the stress of being a caregiver” (Healthwise, 2022).

According to the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humour (AATH), humour can be used in healthcare settings where patients are ill, injured, or otherwise vulnerable. Studies have shown that implementing humour enhances health and human performance. An Australian humour therapy study measured the impact of humour on mood, agitation, behavioural disturbances, and social engagement in patients with dementia and found it to decrease agitation by twenty percent. According to lead researcher Lee-Fay Low, although twenty percent doesn’t seem like a lot, it's about the same amount and effect as you would get if you gave them an antipsychotic medication" (Brown, 2011). The benefits of laughter include relief from stress, anxiety, and depression, releasing the body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals, increased protection from heart disease, a stronger immune system, pain relief and increased socialization with others. According to the Bethesda Health Group, studies have shown that slapstick comedy may still be funny for people with dementia. Films, including “The Three Stooges,” might be a better source of comedy for them than a stand-up comedy routine. (Bethesda Health Group, 2021)

A behavioural observation and annotation system for humour interaction with the elderly with dementia (EWD) was implemented as an exploratory study with 17 German dementia care unit residents to see if EWD patients perceive, appreciate, and produce humour. The study concluded that interactions between EWD and Clinic Clowns proved successful when implementing a pun with a matching slapstick routine into their comedy act. (Baumgartner, 2019) The findings also noted that humour could be an effective coping tool for EWD. It was also suggested that providing humour intervention training that is tailored for EWD patients, coaching caring relatives or staff, and employing Clinic Clowns in long-term care homes can benefit dementia patients. (2019)

The benefits of National Humour Month may be celebrated for only 30 days, but humour’s positive effects continue beyond that time frame. Humour therapy interactions with dementia patients can include songs and music, such as singing residents’ favourite songs accompanied by a ukulele. To ensure that each resident's needs are met, it's essential to customize interactions to include biographical details that tailor interactions to the uniqueness of each individual resident. For instance, if a resident has a musical background, engaging with them by playing an instrument or singing may generate a conversation about a particular memory, creating a joyful and cheerful atmosphere. Recognizing that the sense of humour for those with dementia may change as the disease progresses by replacing punchline jokes with memories from a family vacation or photos from an album can rekindle funny memories and be a valuable tool. Improvisation, humour, and empathy are effective strategies used to engage nursing home residents.

National Humour Day starts on April Fools' Day, which is quite amusing. However, it is worth noting that creating a safe and inclusive environment for humour can have numerous benefits for individuals residing in long-term care facilities and anyone needing a little bit of laughter and positivity. Humour positively benefits mental and physical health, including reducing stress, boosting the immune system, and improving mood. Incorporating humour into daily interactions can create community, including with a patient and their caregiver, improve communication, and enhance overall well-being throughout different stages of life.

Leah- I included a link with activities for seniors that can be used to add humour to their routine. (does not have to be included in the blog)


AANMC. (2020, June 9). Therapeutic benefits of laughter and humour. Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter and Humour. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from

Adams, H. (2022, February 10). Gesundheit! Institute. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from

Baumgartner, G., Renner, KH. Humour in the elderly with dementia: Development and initial validation of a behavioural observation system. Curr Psychol (2019).

Brown, E. N. (2014, February 25). The takeway: Humour therapy helps dementia patients; moderate-intensity exercise may be best. Blogs. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from

Canadian Association for Long Term Care 2022. (2021, July 9). What is long-term care? Canadian Association for Long Term Care 2022. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from

Healthwise. (2022, February 9). Humour therapy. Humour Therapy. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from

National humour Month - April. National Today. (2021, March 22). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from

The benefits of humour for people living with dementia. Bethesda Health Group. (2022, April 18). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from

The psychological and emotional impact of dementia. Alzheimer's Society. (2019, March 13). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, May 1). What is long-term care? National Institute on Aging. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from

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