Title. The purpose and function of humour in health, health care and nursing:
Sally Wiggins MA PhD a narrative review Lecturer Aim. This paper is a report of a review conducted to identify, critically analyse and
Department of Psychology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
synthesize the humour literature across a number of fields related to health, health care and nursing. Background. 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.
Data sources. A comprehensive literature search was carried out in January 2007 using a number of databases, keywords, manual recursive searching and journal alerts (January 1980–2007) cross-referenced with the bibliographic databases of the International Society of Humor Studies. An inclusion and exclusion criterion was identified.
Review methods. A narrative review of evidence- and non-evidence-based papers was conducted, using a relevant methodological framework with additional scrutiny of secondary data sources in the latter. Humour theories, incorporating definition, process and impact constituted a significant part of the appraisal process.
Results. 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.
Conclusion. Nurses and nursing should adopt a circumspect and evidenced-based approach to humour use in their work.
Keywords: health, health care, humour, laughter, literature review, nursing