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The purpose and function of humour in health, healthcare and nursing: a literature review

McCreaddie, M.A. and Wiggins, S. (2008) The purpose and function of humour in health, healthcare and nursing: a literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 9 (2). pp. 39-40. ISSN 0309-2402

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Abstract

This paper is a report of a review conducted to identify, critically analyse and synthesize the humour literature across a number of fields related to health, health care and nursing. The humour-health hypothesis suggests that there is a positive link between humour and health. Humour has been a focus of much contention and deliberation for centuries, with three theories dominating the field: the superiority or tendentious theory, the incongruity theory and the relief theory. A total of 1630 papers were identified, with 220 fully sourced and 88 included in the final review. There is a dearth of humour research within nursing yet, ironically, an abundance of non-evidence-based opinion citing prerequisites and exclusion zones. Examination of physician-patient interaction and the humour-health hypothesis demonstrates that use of humour by patients is both challenging and revealing, particularly with regard to self-deprecating humour.