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No Laughing's the Matter (Self-Test)

Humor is a genuine gauge of your intelligence, life purpose, and longevity.

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This distinguished professor of gerontology boldly asks old ladies to share their favorite dirty jokes. Why? Humor is a quick gauge of intelligence, life purpose, and whether life will be long or just seem that way. See how you can lighten up with Dr. Thorson’s Humor Scale.

This article appeared in our April 2004 issue. On her deathbed, my mother spent her last days busy with visits from friends and relatives. In the evenings, though, when it was just the two of us, she liked me to read to her. I had brought a biography of the Windsors, a thick book filled with sex scandals and other gossipy tidbits about the royal family that she really enjoyed. One evening, nearing the end, she asked what page I was on. “Page 87,” I said. “Read faster,” she replied. This from an 84-year-old woman who sensed that she had only a few days left. Her friend Viola, who shared her sensibility, once told me, “I’m getting so old, I won’t buy green bananas.” These women used humor as a coping mechanism, and their ability to laugh at the world and its absurdities - reflects a particularly healthy approach to life. People who adapt by using humor minimize their problems and put them in perspective, knowing that a hundred years from now, nobody — including them — will care. Such people are also likely to be healthier and live longer. Humor pays off. If you smiled, laughed, …

James A. Thorson, Ed.D., is the Jacob Isaacson Distinguished Professor of Gerontology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale has been published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, and has been translated into 16 languages.


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