Humor Styles and Happiness Among People with Chronic Illness

The editorial team at is working with a team of researchers from Western Carolina University to advance their research about humor styles and happiness among people with multiple sclerosis. We do our best to promote academic research when it can benefit and provide insight for the MS community. Continue reading to learn more about this project.

The invisible mental toll of MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the body’s central nervous system. The myelin sheath that protects the nerve breaks apart, resulting in numerous issues ranging from blurry vision to difficulties with walking, talking, and swallowing. Not only does MS take a physical toll on the body, but it can also take a toll on the mind. The increased stressors associated with MS can create anxiety in the person living with MS, and this can then lead to a decrease in personal happiness.

Multiple sclerosis and happiness

For those who suffer from multiple sclerosis, there are constant stressors in their lives, like loss of independence, fatigue, disability, etc. These stressors compounded with the stressors of everyday life can lead to increased anxiety which can be associated with decreased happiness. However, there are people who deal with MS stressors like these, but still appear quite happy. Why is that? Could their humor play a role?

Humor and happiness

Humor has often been thought to be the best medicine, but does it really work? Research has shown that there are typically four types of humor styles: affiliative, self-enhancing, aggressive, and self-defeating. People who have or use an affiliative or self-enhancing humor style typically report greater happiness, whereas people who use an aggressive or self-defeating humor style usually report greater issues with anxiety or depression. Depending on a person’s style, the use of humor may help relieve symptoms like stress or anxiety that are associated with chronic illnesses, specifically multiple sclerosis. Therefore, since symptoms such as these can often lead to less overall happiness, the relief of them may lead to increased happiness for the individual dealing with the chronic illness.


My name is Audre Tyner and my team is from Western Carolina University, and consists of my professor and myself. We are interested in examining the relationship between humor styles and happiness among people living with multiple sclerosis. We expect that those with self-enhancing humor compared with people who do not have this humor style should have a higher level of happiness. Ultimately, self-enhancing humor should help alleviate the anxiety caused by multiple sclerosis.

Survey results

This survey is now closed, and here are the results that we found:
We hypothesized that MS patients who have a self-enhancing humor style are happier and less anxious because they perceive less MS-related stress in daily life.

We conducted a bootstrapping analysis that provides a confidence interval (CI) to test whether people with a self-enhancing humor style experience greater happiness and less anxiety because they perceive less stress in their lives.

If zero is not included in the 95% confidence interval, this indirect relationship is significant at p<.05 (Preacher & Hayes, 2004). The indirect relationship was significant for the measure of happiness, β= -0.47, CI95= (0.2227, 0.5536) and for the measure of anxiety, β= 0.65, CI95=(-0.2935, -0.0545). Supporting our hypothesis, self-enhancing humor relates to happiness and anxiety because it affects the way people perceive stressors in daily life. Thank you to all who participated and helped us with this research.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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