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A 15-Year Follow-Up Study of Sense of Humor and Causes of Mortality

The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study

Romundstad, Solfrid MD, PhD; Svebak, Sven PhD; Holen, Are MD, PhD; Holmen, Jostein MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000275

Background Associations between the sense of humor and survival in relation to specific diseases has so far never been studied.

Methods We conducted a 15-year follow-up study of 53,556 participants in the population-based Nord-Trøndelag Health Study, Norway. Cognitive, social, and affective components of the sense of humor were obtained, and associations with all-cause mortality, mortality due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), infections, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases were estimated by hazard ratios (HRs).

Results After multivariate adjustments, high scores on the cognitive component of the sense of humor were significantly associated with lower all-cause mortality in women (HR = 0.52, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.33–0.81), but not in men (HR = 0.88, 95% CI = 0.59–1.32). Mortality due to CVD was significantly lower in women with high scores on the cognitive component (HR = 0.27, 95% CI = 0.15–0.47), and so was mortality due to infections both in men (HR = 0.26, 95% CI = 0.09–0.74) and women (HR = 0.17, 95% CI = 0.04–0.76). The social and affective components of the sense of humor were not associated with mortality. In the total population, the positive association between the cognitive component of sense of humor and survival was present until the age of 85 years.

Conclusions The cognitive component of the sense of humor is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men. The findings indicate that sense of humor is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource.

From The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Romundstad, Svebak, Holen, Holmen), Trondheim, Norway; Department of Internal Medicine (Romundstad), Levanger Hospital, Health Trust Nord-Trøndelag, Levanger, Norway; Pain Unit, St Olav University Hospital (Holen), Trondheim, Norway; and Department of Public Health and General Practice (Holmen), HUNT Research Centre, Levanger, Norway.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Solfrid Romundstad, MD, PhD, Department Internal Medicine, Health Trust Nord-Trøndelag, Levanger Hospital, Kirkegt. 2, NO-7600 Levanger, Norway. E-mail:

Received for publication January 12, 2015; revision received September 28, 2015.

Copyright © 2016 by American Psychosomatic Society
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