Although mental health problems such as depression after disasters have been reported, positive psychological factors after disasters have not been examined. Recently, the importance of positive affect to our health has been recognised. We therefore investigated the frequency of laughter and its related factors among residents of evacuation zones after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
In a cross-sectional study on 52,320 participants aged 20 years and older who were included in the Fukushima Health Management Survey in Japan’s fiscal year 2012, associations of the frequency of laughter with changes in lifestyle after the disaster, such as a changed work situation, the number of family members, and the number of address changes, and other sociodemographic, psychological, and lifestyle factors were examined using logistic regression analysis. The frequency of laughter was assessed using a single-item question: “How often do you laugh out loud?”
The proportion of those who laugh almost every day was 27.1%. Multivariable models adjusted for sociodemographic, psychological, and lifestyle factors demonstrated that an increase in the number of family members and fewer changes of address were significantly associated with a high frequency of laughter. Mental health, regular exercise, and participation in recreational activities were also associated with a high frequency of laughter.
Changes in lifestyle factors after the disaster were associated with the frequency of laughter in the evacuation zone. Future longitudinal studies are needed to examine what factors can increase the frequency of laughter.