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Q: Why do kids laugh more than adults?

A: It's not clear that they do, says Robert McGrath, coordinator of mind/body wellness services at University Health Services at UW-Madison. McGrath has seen a study that found that children laugh no more than adults, but added that kids do have some advantages in the laughter department.

"They are usually with people most of the day, and most people laugh when they are with other people. When you're in the office, alone with your computer, you are less likely to laugh," McGrath said. "Humans tend to be social, and laughter is contagious."

Different ages laugh for different reasons, McGrath added. Silly faces, "knock-knock" jokes and gross humor are almost guaranteed to get a laugh from kids, but not adults.

"Does that mean that adults have lost their sense of humor if they don't laugh at gross jokes?" he said. "No, but kids express themselves in ways that would be embarrassing if adults did it."

The novelty factor must also be considered, McGrath said. "At a certain point, even if it's a good joke, you may have heard it already."

Adulthood can also bring a sense of seriousness.

"There may be more important things to do than laugh," said McGrath, "but I think laughter is great medicine."

— Provided in cooperation with University Communications


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