According to a report by the Office of National Statistics, by the year 2066, there will be an estimated 20.4 million adults aged 65 years and over in the UK, who will make up more than a quarter (26%) of the total population (ONS, 2018). The report also highlights that, “the likelihood of being disabled and/or experiencing multiple chronic and complex health conditions among those aged 65 years and over increases with age. As life expectancy increases, so does the amount of time spent in poor health.” Finding innovative approaches to help promote healthy ageing and also protect extra burden being placed on the health and social care services is therefore a growing priority.
A systematic review published in Complementary Therapies for Clinical Practice looked at the effects of laughter yoga on physical function and psychosocial outcomes in older adults (Kuru and Arikan, 2020). Laughter yoga is a non-invasive practice that comes in many forms, but typically combines yoga breathing techniques with laughter exercises, with both having reported health benefits.
While the authors state that the number of studies and data quality in this field is limited, of the seven studies that met the inclusion criteria, laughter yoga was found to have the following health benefits in people over the age of 65:
- Physical function – improvements in blood pressure, cortisol levels and sleep quality.
- Psychosocial function – improvements in life satisfaction, quality of life, loneliness, death anxiety, depression, mood and happiness.
The authors conclude that, “Laughter yoga can be used for health promotion in older adults. It is a cost effective and enjoyable technique for older adults. Significantly in this analysis, it has been found that the intervention duration necessary to effect the outcomes in older adults appears to be a minimum of four weeks.” They also call for more high-quality randomised controlled trials with validated study protocols and guidelines.
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Kuru Alici N, Arikan Dönmez A. A systematic review of the effect of laughter yoga on physical function and psychosocial outcomes in older adults. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2020 Nov;41:101252. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101252. Epub 2020 Oct 28. PMID: 33217706.
ONS (Office of National Statistics). Living longer: how our population is changing and why it matters, August 2018. Living longer – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)