Humorous Movies' Effects in Schizophrenia

January 1, 2007
Volume 24, Issue 1

Is there something to the adage, laughter is the best medicine? Dr Marc Gelkopf and associates in Israel studied a different treatment approach for patients with schizophrenia using funny movies.

Is there something to the adage, "laughter is the best medicine"? Dr Marc Gelkopf and associates in Israel studied a different treatment approach for patients with schizophrenia-using funny movies.

The researchers studied the effects of humorous movies on 29 inpatients with chronic residual schizophrenia. The results of the study were published in the November 2006 issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease/>. Patients were randomized to an experimental group (n = 15) and a control group (n = 14). The patients in the experimental group viewed 60 comedies over a 3-month period; the patients in the control group viewed the same number of movies over the same period, but only 15% of the films that they viewed were humorous.

The results were quantified using a number of scales. . . . There was a significant difference found in the experimental group in the reduction of negative symptoms (P = .001) and anxiety or depression symptoms (P = .04) on the Positive and Negative Symptom Scale, compared with the control group. There was also a reduction in depression symptoms in the experimental group on the Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia (P = .05) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (P = .001).

Improvement was measured in the experimental group using the Multnomah Community Ability Scale (P = .04); improvements on this scale were entirely accounted for by improvements in social competence (P = .05). A reduction in the experimental group's anger state was also observed using this scale (P = .001).

Despite these results, the movies initiated no change at the therapeutic level or in therapist-patient relationships, and they did not contribute to therapeutic insight relating to the illness. Even so, the researchers acknowledged the benefits of integrating humor in these patients' daily lives. While the study was being conducted, the researchers noted that the viewings seemed to reduce tension and have a "mood-elevating effect in the entire ward."